Go ahead, scaredy-cat. Forget the safe word. Take off the floaties you borrowed from your four-year-old nephew and dive into the deep side of the pool. And do it in cold water with no lifeguard in sight.
You’re scared, aren’t you? Me too. I suffer from panic disorder, and safe is my paradise. But it’s a land I must leave if I want to do more, be more, and grow. And if you want the same thing, you’ll have to pack your bags as well.
But don’t just take my word for it.
An article in Entrepreneur quotes the “father” of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, who says that “the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
So you must do that thing. And only you know what that thing is. Otherwise, take a seat on the sidewalk and watch those who will do that thing zoom past you with smiles on their faces and stardust in their eyes, ultimately reaching the personal and professional goals you crave so badly.
But let me warn you, when you prepare to take the risks you know you need to take, it will get worse before it gets better. That’s just the way it works.
The painful reality of risk-taking
Prepare for discomfort and failure
No matter what risk you decide to take, you’re going to feel fear. Your breathing will quicken, and your heart will race. But the only way through these feelings is to do the thing you’re scared to do.
For example, the school that I teach at is completely virtual now due to COVID, and for this technological dinosaur, this has meant a nine-month walk with fear. What’s worse, I have to renew a certification this year, which if I fail, will mean a twelve percent cut in salary. Do you know what losing twelve percent of your pay means to a teacher’s salary? It’s life-changing, and not in a good way.
And a requirement of that renewal is that I show proficiency with technology. So just yesterday, I tried two new things with my students at one time: a learning tool called Jamboard and what they call “break out rooms” on the “Google Meets” we do every day.
When I pulled up the program and clicked the button that would send my virtual students into five different “meets” at one time, I was terrified. But the minute my fingers lifted from the keyboard, there was an ironic sense of relief. I had jumped in, and there was no other choice but to swim. And I did.
But it was not pretty.
In these break-out rooms, students work in virtual rooms and the teacher pops in and out to check on them. When I tried to do this, I felt like an astronaut shuttled into space, one whose tethers to the home ship had been broken. The teens I teach were already used to these rooms and had to retrieve the students I shot into space with me and bring them back to their respective rooms.
I looked and felt like an idiot. But after ninety minutes “in the void,” I learned so much more than I knew before. And after a few minutes spent wishing for a good stiff shot to calm my nerves, a small voice inside me triumphantly whispered, “You did it.”
And to achieve whatever you want, you’ve going to have to be thrown into space as well. So accept that you will feel scared, that you will make mistakes, that you might be embarrassed or look a little ignorant the first time you take whatever risk you need to take.
But know that for all your stress and struggles, you will grow. You will learn something. You will be wiser about what to do and what not to do.
And when you take the plunge into the unknown, find strength and comfort that there is no celebrity, artist, entrepreneur, or a self-made millionaire who has not faced the same fears and experienced the same failures as you will on your way to success.
The paradox is the terror that stems from risk-taking can be our friend if we let it be. It elevates our senses, increases our knowledge, boosts our confidence, and shows us that we are more resilient than we ever imagined.
Prepare to take the same risk or other risks again. And again.
So you took a risk and made the leap. You’re mentally and emotionally exhausted but proud. But that plane you just plunged out of? It’s coming back around to pick you up for another jump.
An article in Inc. entitled “5 Wildly Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal How Risk Taking Propelled Their Careers,” cites wise words from Oprah Winfrey, a woman whose risk-taking has helped her obtain “a net worth nearing three billion.” Winfrey states:
“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire.”
Success doesn’t come with taking only one bold risk. You must go back “into the void” to learn more and achieve more. And once you feel you’ve accomplished success in that endeavor, you have to take new risks to keep expanding your repertoire.
Best selling writer Jeff Goins reiterates this fact by stating that once you’ve taken enough risks to build one skill, you need to keep taking more risks to “develop complementary skills.”
When speaking of what makes writers successful, he says writers “will do more interesting work when [they] aren’t afraid to lose what [they] have. And [they] will do more boring work when [they’re] afraid to lose.”
And this fact relates not only to writing but to every aspect of success. In short, when you begin to let the fear and emotional drain of repeated risk-taking make you think of turning back, focus more on what you stand to gain and less on what you stand to lose.
The rewards of risk-taking
So you’ve put yourself out there. You’ve taken a risk. Then another. Then another again. You’ve become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
By doing these things, you’ve developed what Dr. Rochelle Perper says is “the risk-takers advantage.” She lists the benefits of those who perpetually take risks, stating that risk-takers will acquire new knowledge, skills, and confidence but will also increase their creativity and allow for the possibility that “unforeseen opportunities will arise,” propelling one’s growth and success even more than they originally thought possible.
The bottom line:
In a Huffington Post interview with Kay Koplovitz, CEO and founder of USA TV Network, she summarizes the mindset and risktaking that is required to achieve success:
“You really have to put one foot in front of the other and start on your journey. You have to be comfortable that you don’t know exactly how you are going to get to the results that you want to see. There is going to be experimentation along the way. And you have to be comfortable that you can think your way through and actually execute your way through to the desired outcome.”
So start your journey and invite more risk into your life. Make sure the risks you take are smart ones, and if they are, keep taking bold steps, even when you can’t see what’s beyond the curve in the road ahead. After all, you never know what pot of gold may lie there.