Before you delve into the heart of this post, for the next few minutes, I’d like you to reflect on your life and the many times you avoided risks and opted for the path of least resistance—the path that was comfortable and predictable.
Looking back, what did you see?
Here’s what you likely saw. The things that seemed so scary and risky at the time now seem like missed opportunities—many of which you can never regain. But that’s the past, which has been etched in history. Let’s look at the present through the lenses of the next question.
How high are you willing to fly?
For many of you, your natural instinct is to think deeply and weigh every factor very carefully before arriving at a definitive conclusion. Although the question is a fairly simple one, you are hesitant to offer a direct response because at the subconscious level, you have been programmed to make certain associations. In other words, it is at the subconscious level that risks and rewards are assigned a value. And when risks, as processed and interpreted through one’s environment, beliefs, emotions and habits, outweigh potential and perceived rewards, those risks never reach one’s consciousness.
But this is not to say that being risk averse is an inherently bad thing. The fact is, many of the associations we make, as it relates to risks, have their basis in human evolutionary adaptation and survival. For example, going hunting at night in the Serengeti is a risky proposition for humans due to our inability to see in low light conditions and defend ourselves against the threat of predators.
Nothing great can be achieved without risk.
Thus, in many cases, it does make sense to heed our internal warning systems as many things can go wrong at it pertains to risk-taking. The reality is, more people have failed taking risks than they have succeeded. Risk-taking can expose you to emotional, physical or economic loss. A person could potentially lose his or her reputation and status as well.
Conversely, risk-taking can expose you to unforeseen rewards and opportunities. You will never reach your true potential if you do not develop an appetite for intelligent risks. What do I mean by intelligent risk? An intelligent risk is the act of stretching beyond your level of comfort—it means swimming upstream and exposing yourself to uncertainty and change, and learning and growing.
Think about how much more manageable and enjoyable our lives have become in the last fifteen years due to the advances in technology. What do you imagine our lives would have been like without risk takers pushing the boundaries of innovation? Think Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, Airbnb. Ultimately, nothing great can be achieved without risk.
So, how high are you willing to fly?
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