Taking risks is something I've always sought out ever since childhood. The uncertainty of taking a risk excites and motivates me. It has proved to be helpful in my experience as a business owner, but it has also been a problem for me in other circumstances.
The first time I can remember taking a risk was going on an airplane by myself at age 10 to visit relatives in California. After that solo trip, I was hooked on traveling. When I was 12, I begged my parents to send me overseas (with a friend) to visit family in Sweden. My dreams of world travel were ignited from these 2 trips.
Travel was the best risk taking experience for me as a kid and young adult. It encouraged me to set goals, plan ahead and save money to make trips happen. Risks can be healthy when well thought through, but it wasn't always the case as I grew up.
I ran into a few sketchy situations while traveling abroad in my 20s that were mostly due to my naïveté and lack of planning. When I was teaching English in Thailand, I took a weekend trip to a nearby island for its infamous full moon party. I rented a motorbike and was driving around one night on my way to meet a friend (I had booked a very cringey hostel and decided to stay with her instead). I was driving in the dark and a man on a motorbike rode up next to me, flashed a big smile then snatched my beach bag right from the basket. Luckily there wasn't anything too important inside, but if I had planned properly ahead of time, I wouldn't have been such an obvious target with my personal items riding around in the dark.
Don't worry, I always wore a helmet while riding a motorbike!
Another time in Thailand, I was gone for a weekend trip and headed to the bus station to get back home. I was late so all the bus tickets were sold out and I had to get home for work the next morning. The only option available was to ride underneath the bus where all the luggage was. I agreed and sat with a few others in the same sticky situation. Needless to say I was never caught without a return ticket home again.
Taking risks can be scary and can hold many people back from achieving dreams, but it can also be the best life changing decision one can make. What holds people back? Fear of failure & rejection, uncertainty and of course, safety.
Failure & Rejection
I've failed plenty of things like college algebra, sports (yes to all of them), relationships, my first & second attempt at a business, countless job interviews, grad school projects and the list goes on. Every time I fail, I go through the process of feeling all the yucky emotions then reassess whether it's worth trying again. What is your relationship to fear, failure and rejection? What pressures have you felt in life to avoid failure? How to do you feel when you've been rejected? Ashamed, excluded, depressed, idiotic? These are all feelings I've experienced and although they really hurt, they seem to hurt a little less every time I encounter failure.
The unknown can be quite scary. Not being in control of the outcome can be enough not to do something. How do you feel when you've started something without knowing the outcome? Anxiety, stress, anger & irritation are all feelings I've had. As a business owner, there are so many uncertainties that can be frightening. Not being able to pay rent and bills, not filling classes or selling products, the risk of a customer injury, a bad Google review, etc. Some of these uncertainties were often stressful for just a short period of time where as running my own business was a very positive feeling most of the time.
Taking a risk with a new business space. Art work done by my aunt, Lisa Bierer
This one seems like a no brainer. As a mom, I don't even consider taking a risk when it comes to safety. Anxiety always makes its way in just thinking about it. Now in the time of COVID, most people are still taking health risks when going out, including myself. Depsite being masked up, there's always a possibility of infection. However, we still need to live our lives as normal as possible since we must work, grocery shop, etc. What levels of safety are within your comfort zone? What pushes the limits? What boundaries have you had to set with friends and family during this pandemic?
With each of these fears, it's important to assess the level of risk you're willing to take. What are the pros and cons of potential failure and rejection, uncertainty and safety? What is a goal you want to achieve but haven't moved forward with it? What holds you back?
Start small! Taking a risk could be as simple as trying out a new cuisine from a different country. What is something you've been curious to try?