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Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Risks We Don't Take

On the Kasbah Route (Ouarzazate to Marrakech), Morocco


(Dedicated to ECMK for the risks he has always freely chosen to take.)

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly". Robert F. Kennedy

What is so frightening about taking a risk? What do risks imply? What happens if we risk something and then fail? What happens if we risk nothing?

Risk taking is about the fear of failure and/or rejection. (See also my article Rejection: The Devastating and Paralyzing Effect it Can Have on Us). The thought of failure can be so devastating to some individuals, that it may totally hinder them from ever even attempting something they have their heart set on, or that has been a dream for a long time.

  • The policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all. Jawaharlal Nehru
  • I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. Pablo Picasso
  • Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. T.S. Eliot

The left brain (logical and rational thinking) takes over, the individual tells him or herself that whatever is being contemplated is too risky, implies too much potential for failure or rejection, and that therefore there is no point in even giving it a try. Obviously there is a world of difference between being foolish with risks (i.e. spending the family’s food budget on sports betting), and being pro-active, entrepreneurial, and following one’s bliss, as Joseph Campbell would have put it. (See also my June 2006 Newsletter: Finding a Meaning for Your Life).

  • The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live. Leo Buscaglia
  • Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome. Samuel Johnson
  • It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. Seneca

Risking something is generally implied when a person is going after a dream. Many of the world’s most successful ventures began as dreams in someone’s mind, basement (Bill Gates and Microsoft, Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Google, Ray Kroc and MacDonald’s, America and Christopher Columbus, to name only a few of the more obvious ones), or drawing board. Had they not gone after this dream, had they not dared to risk whatever was involved in it – sometimes risking money, sometimes time, sometimes their name and prestige – they would never have achieved the success they found. (See also a recent post: Inauthentic Lives).

  • One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. André Gide
  • To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. Soren Kierkegaard
  • You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Wayne Gretzky

The worst part of taking risks however, is not failing, and is not being rejected. If you fail, you can figure out a new way of starting over and trying again. Or if you don’t achieve all the success you had hoped for, you may need to refine your methods. But if you don’t take a risk, if you never risk anything, you know that this is what you will most regret as your life comes to a close. You will remember all that you could have done, all the people you could have loved, all that you could have attempted, all the dreams you could have followed, and you will know that you did not. This will be a deep regret. Don’t go to that place. Follow your dreams, take the risks, find a bridge across your fears and discover how much you can really do!

  • Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first. Frederick B. Wilcox
  • Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down. Ray Bradbury
  • He who risks and fails can be forgiven. He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being. Paul Tillich

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