Risk: Your secret success weapon

by Brad Isaac on June 28, 2006

People who know me will tell you one of my more common sayings is "I’d rather take a huge calculated risk with an opportunity to reap great benefits – even if I fail and get fired – than sticking with the "safe" status quo with the opportunity to go nowhere.


Yet many set the bar too low. It is similar to running the high jump with the bar set 1 foot off the ground. Where’s the glory in jumping 1 foot? Can you imagine applauding someone who ‘high jumped’ 1 foot? 


Nor is it likely they will applaud you for sitting at your desk doing your job and only your job.


Over the years I’ve trained many students for network administration. What I see as a great measure for who is going to make it and who isn’t going to make it is to assess whether they take risks or not.

Technorati Tags: Goals and Goal Setting, Inspiration, motivation, Risk taking

Let me explain. There are some students who have the 5th grade attitude "Is F-disk on the Microsoft exam?" As if I answered "No" they’d immediately tune me out and play a round of solitaire. Let me give you a hint it’s ALL on the exam when you start your career! 


The other student gets the F-disk floppy and immediately starts exploring the computer’s logical and extended partitions. He might even accidentally delete a partition – effectively ‘crashing’ the machine.


Now, as odd as this may sound to some of you, the student who is more likely to make it as a Network Administrator is the second student. He is a risk-taker; he will learn many more lessons than the person looking for the easy way. 


Sure, it is work to mess up sometimes, especially when the stakes are high. Accidentally formatting the CEO’s PC might just get you fired – which is why we hope we’ve taken smaller risks and learned important lessons before the big risk presents itself.  


When you’ve fried a Motherboard that you bought with your own money and witnessed firsthand the smoke, sparks and fire, I guarantee you’ll never fry a $30,000 server’s motherboard. You’ll have experience under your belt. But you can’t get that experience sitting back and saying "I’ve never done that. I’ll just let the Geek Squad replace it."


So how do you break out of the comfort zone and start taking risks?


1. Research – Read, take classes, seek counsel about what you want to do but are afraid to risk.


2. Start small – To become a wise stock investor, you will probably start with CDs or mutual funds. To master water-skiing you can start out tubing to adjust to the speed and water. To master a network of 30 servers you must first master a network of 2 computers. 


3. Raise the stakes once you learn – When you learn how to pick a stock, apply your knowledge to stock diversification. When you’ve mastered basic skiing, take a risk by jumping the wake. When you’ve mastered your network, you can then risk offering new and better services to your clients.


Being one of the few who is willing to risk can lead to greatness. A boxer must risk a hit to score a knockout. An actor must risk an audition to start a career in show business. And to reach the greatness you seek will require risks as well. Start out
slow, gain the experience!but then take the risk. 

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June 29, 2006 at 11:24 am


You are right on target with this post. The process of preparation you describe has served me well over the years and is an important component of risk taking.

Many people psych themselves up to take a risk, but their lack of preparation just makes them reckless. That’s usually not much better than being too cautious.

Great stuff,

Andrew Seltz – The Go-To Guy

B. Riley July 3, 2006 at 10:41 am

Another asset that helps in your example is plain old curiosity. . .

If someone isn’t willing to sit and say “I wonder what would happen if I. . . “.

And then break something, then they aren’t going to be ready when they are thrown into a situation when something really does go horribly wrong.

Good post. . .

July 4, 2006 at 10:52 pm

On many occisions, we become risk averse because we fear rejection or being labeled stupid by others. I’ve an article on How to Eliminate Fear at http://radicalhop.com/blog/2006/06/15/the-1-way-to-eliminate-fear-chant-this-mantra-daily/
if it interests you :)

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