In 7th grade, I remember asking my favorite teacher, "What should I do now?" He responded, “Follow your heart, it won't let you down."
Those words still resonate with me now, years later, and it’s a piece of advice I constantly apply to my professional life. Even though I’ve taken some leaps of faith and made some mistakes along the way, I cherish them because I’ve always done what I believe in, I’ve always followed my heart.
In business, I’ve learned that while answers may need to be in black-and-white, there’s also my answer. And, although my answer may be different, maybe even a bit risky, it’s my risk to take and it’s my outcome to manage.
There are two types of risks in this world – calculated and un-calculated. Arguably, a calculated risk is the only way to cultivate an environment of entrepreneurship and a worthwhile pay off.
Without trial and error—and risk taking—you remain stagnant, predictable and ultimately you will become stale. Risks are about pushing yourself until you’re operating outside of your comfort zone—with good judgment of course—and allowing yourself to take a step that might feel uncomfortable at first. Stepping out of your skin is necessary in any career journey and it is the only way you’ll realize what you are capable of.
If you’re a person who feels uncomfortable taking a risk, this blog might not be for you! But if you need a little inspiration to become a better risk-taker, here’s how:
Step One: Listen to your intuition
First, there is no perfection in risk taking. It really is a gut reaction, an instinct if you will. Allow yourself the pleasure of following it. Oftentimes people overthink things; they come up with reasons "not to" and only end up coming back to their first thought anyways. Believe in that first thought and don't be afraid to follow it—nine times out of ten, it will prove worthwhile.
Step Two: Don’t overanalyze
Great leaders don’t become great by being predictable and playing it safe. Don't get me wrong, there is merit in being consistent, and all risks should have some level of consideration—but, don't overanalyze. People can talk themselves out of anything and in risk taking you can't let yourself get paralyzed in the details. It might never be the perfect time, with the perfect set of circumstances, but at some point you just have to do it. Take the risk, make the move. People will respect you for it.
Step Three: Don't let "what you think you know" guide all of your actions
We are all creatures of habit—to some extent—but also have minds like sponges. As professionals, we need to be open to learning, exploring and not having all of the answers. Because, to be honest, we never really do. It’s important to realize that the world is changing—and it’s changing quickly. Sometimes what worked before will never work again. The best thing we can do as a professional is be open to exploring the new options that come our way and implement a trial-and-error mentality.
Step Four: Try it in small doses
If risks aren't for you, try them in small doses. Try a pilot or test before taking the big leap. This method will allow you to see the outcome before the impact is too grand.
Step Five: Be ready to make mistakes
The thing with risk taking is that you won't win every time. Minimize the fallout whenever possible and have a plan to re-execute should a risk not pan out. They are called risks for a reason, but don't be afraid to make a mistake. Mistakes are the best way people learn and develop into the best kind of professionals.
In summary, risks are all about encouraging your own development into the best person and professional you can be. If the word "risk" is too strong a word, try instead "thinking outside the box" or "being innovative."
I’ll leave you with this thought: "Innovation is the intersection between fear and bravery."
To have this, you must be accepting of failures and make a few calculated mistakes along the way. Personally, I believe a lot in mistakes.