As an entrepreneur (one who works with a lot of entrepreneurial minds every day), I’m often intrigued by the idea of the mindsets and attitudes that must be in place for a person to take a risk. What causes these folks to chase their dreams, set fear aside, overcome great odds, and find success? I’ll admit, I find myself in awe of these individuals, and sometimes envious of their tolerance and passion for taking risks.
Along the way, many lessons have bubbled to the surface when it comes to risk taking. While I do my own degree of this work, pushing boundaries and exploring new ideas, I know I can always push it further. So I learn from the experience and store the knowledge away for next time.
Here are the top five things I’ve learned about taking risks:
1. Create Your Vision
Every great entrepreneurial story starts with a vision rather than a proven theory. Think about Jeff Bezos when he developed the idea for Amazon. There was no proof that what he wanted to do was possible. It didn’t exist yet. Rather, he led with his vision to become the largest online retailer and one of the wealthiest people on the planet. Be specific in your vision, be able to clearly articulate it to those who will help you bring it to life, and be a fierce advocate for it. Tune out the noise and the naysayers, and don’t let people tell you that your vision can’t happen. Those who believe in it will get on board.
2. Follow Your Gut
Many of us are taught from a young age to use logic and data in our decision making. But I would argue that your gut can be the most powerful tool. I recall reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Blink,” many years ago. One thing that stuck with me is the idea that people rely heavily on data to back up what they’ve already decided. In other words, their gut has already told them what to do and they rationalize the decision. And that’s OK, but we’ve experienced many more successes than failures by following our gut and taking risks.
3. Embrace Potential Embarrassment
I saw a recent statistic that talked about how risk tolerance goes down as we get older. It seems the reasoning is that older people have the expectation that they have the experience and knowledge to make the right decisions and fear looking stupid if they make mistakes. But you won’t find success if you don’t try new things and, yes, make mistakes along the way. The embarrassment will be temporary, so shove it aside. In the end, who cares if 15 minutes of laughter was at your expense? At least you tried, and now you have the experience to try again.
4. Be Relentless in your Follow-Through
The biggest mistake I’ve seen entrepreneurs make is their ability to continuously follow through on their vision. They have a great idea, and may have even started a business to bring that idea to life, but they lack the ability to execute. This is where the hard work comes in. It takes a lot of hard work to build a successful business, and the idea is only the beginning. It can take ten or more years to truly get a new business to the point of running efficiently. At that point, it’s the founder’s responsibility to be less involved in the day-to-day work and focus energy on ensuring the vision is intact.
5. Let Go of your Fears and Embrace the Risks
Fear holds us back from reaching our full potential and growing to the next level. Changing your outlook from “what could go wrong” to thinking about “what is possible” will help you set this aside. Getting mired in the negative causes us to sit back while opportunities pass us by each day. I recently faced a challenge that created all kinds of doubts in my head. I had to think about it differently, and stop focusing on the outcome. Instead, I focused on the process, and what could result if I faced this challenge. Changing my outlook allowed me to successfully embrace risk and I became a different person because of it.
If you’ve had an idea or a goal that you’ve always wanted to pursue, I hope that the pointers I’ve listed above can serve as the beginning of your journey. Take the risk and that first step, embrace what you want, and put in the work to get it. You’ll live with no regrets as to what could have been, and have the opportunity to enjoy the experiences along the way.