Most of us don’t like risk.
We buy insurance. We work for a paycheck. We put our money in an FDIC-insured savings account even though it pays less than 1.0% interest.
These things aren’t necessarily bad; a little bit of caution is a good thing.
But when you become conditioned to reject nearly any risk in your life, think of how this influences your behaviors and, more critically, how it impacts your life.
- you don’t talk to that beautiful guy/girl at a party because you’re afraid of rejection; you stay single
- you don’t take credit for an outstanding job at work because you’re afraid others will think you’re bragging; somebody else gets promoted
- you don’t follow your passion because you’re afraid others will call you crazy; you have major regrets in 30-40 years
Risk is good.
Risk creates progress.
(In this video, Peter Diamandis explains why he’s comfortable asking people to risk their lives in pursuit of the X PRIZE, which he created.)
But you don’t have to risk your life to rocket into space. You don’t have to quit your job to become an entrepreneur (unless you want to, in which case, you probably should). But this year, after your resolutions to hit the gym and stop buying lattes have failed (and most of them will), resolve to take a risk or two.
Talk to a pretty stranger. Go skydiving. Start freelancing. Leave a job.
There is a line, of course. I’m not telling you to stake your life’s savings on red at the roulette wheel. There are big risks and small risks. Some risks have positive expectations, like the strong likelihood a boss will grant a hardworking employee’s request for a modest raise. Some risks have negative expectations—roulette, for instance.
Of course, not all risks will pay off.
But success is earned on the back of many such small risks, and the obdurate takers will be rewarded with far more than the costs of their failures.
I know this isn’t specific financial advice you might be expecting, but it is—most importantly—actionable. You can resolve to take risks this year. And you can start today.
MY LATEST RISK
I’m taking risks all the time. And recently, I took a big one:
Last month, I left my day job to work full-time on Money Under 30.
Now, if you’ve been around awhile, you’ll know that for a few months in 2009, Money Under 30 was my primary focus while I juggled some other part-time projects after moving from Boston to Portland, Maine to be with my wife. I then began work as a marketing manager for a software company until I left that job last month.
In 2009, Money Under 30 was ready to be worked on full-time, only I wasn’t ready to do it.
I had just moved to a new city. I was getting married. I had repaid most of my debt, but I needed to save a lot more before feeling comfortable being self-employed. And I’d soon be a dad.
I know that some people would’ve made the leap sooner. But, then again, some people wouldn’t make the leap at all.
I admit, I hesitated.
I liked having two incomes. (Indeed, I still believe in diversification, and will be consulting with my old employer and some other contacts to ensure my livelihood isn’t 100% dependent on this blog).
Ultimately, however, I’ve always known that I wouldn’t be truly happy unless I were working for myself. It’s a personality thing. Some people work well—or at least tolerate—working under supervision. I can’t. It makes me resentful, even angry. I would get the worst cases of road rage because of how much I dreaded marching into work for 8:00 on somebody else’s schedule. And I’ve had GREAT bosses. I’ve gotten along with all of them. They’ve been nice people and competent managers. But that doesn’t matter. I just need set my own hours, and most importantly, go at my own creative pace. If I want to be working on A but you tell me to do B, I can’t do it. I simply can’t. If I try to focus on B, I’m too busy thinking about A and won’t get anything done. Despite all this, I waited to take this risk because of the same reason people don’t ask strangers out, ask their boss for a raise, or make any big change in life…
Not fear that that I wouldn’t succeed on my own. Of that, I’m quite confident. But the fear of what other people think. The fear that my parents would think I’m throwing away a “real career”. The fear that my friends would think, as a blogger, I must just be sitting on my ass eating bonbons all day.
This is the worst kind of fear, of course, because it’s totally irrelevant. If you’re skydiving and afraid your chute might not open, at least that fear serves a purpose; it might remind you to inspect the parachute.
The fears that prevents us from taking little risks in our daily lives, however, are mostly unnecessary. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make them any less paralyzing, and you need to overcome them.
Ultimately, in order to take the risk I needed to take, I had to face my fears. My friends and loved ones can think what they want. I don’t care. I’m doing what I love, and I’m far happier because when I get up every day, I get to work on creating my own material that will help you. And that’s awesome.
WHAT RISK(S) WILL YOU TAKE?
That’s my story, but I want to know: What risk(s) will you take this year? How do you expect it to change your life? Share with us in a comment. (And when you follow through, don’t forget to circle back and let me know how it worked out.)