Walt Disney has been quoted as saying, “Everyone needs a good failure along the way,” and T.D. Jakes states, “You need to fail boldly if you want to succeed extravagantly!” This is good advice, except that they are much easier said than done. No one wants to fail, so we typically stay in a continual state of risk-aversion that helps us to carefully evaluate and mitigate situations in which we might lose it all. Fear of failure is a common human state, which is why when those who are heralded as being willing to take great risks in order to succeed come to light, we take such notice and applaud them.
All of us fall somewhere on the risk-aversion spectrum. A few, like world-class entrepreneur Richard Branson, embrace risk as a daily way of life, while most take only the most calculated risks and try to remain as safe as possible in their pursuits, even when their circumstances are unsure, mundane, or worse, painful. Many people fear risk and will remain in a painful situation because, as Steve Donahue explains, painful situations are at least predictable, but in order to overcome our fear, we must embrace the uncertainty and view life with a sense of adventure.
In our pursuit of reinvention, we must muster the courage to live life as a great adventure, walking away from painful, though predictable circumstances, and taking risks that will help us become our better self. Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as stating, “Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” Wow! What if we were able to have the courage to view life in this way? What if, instead of fearing the risk of failing, we were able to conduct one experiment after another, learning from each experience regardless of the outcome?
Psychologist and author, Amy Morin, offered practical advice on understanding fear and risk-taking when she wrote,
You should have some fear about stepping into traffic. That fear reminds you that you should look both ways before you cross the road, so you can reduce the risk that you’ll get hit by a car. If you didn’t have any fear, you’d likely behave recklessly. But our fear meters aren’t always reliable. They sometimes go off even when we’re not in any actual danger. And when we feel afraid, we tend to behave accordingly, falsely believing that if it feels scary, it must be too risky.
She makes a key point here. Sometimes things “feel scary” even when they don’t represent real danger. All too often we will avoid the risk simply because we feel fear. When this happens, we will stumble on the road to reinvention. Morin goes on to give some practical advice for overcoming the fear of risk that will keep us from moving forward. She suggests we answer two questions:
- How bad would it be if the worst-case scenario that we fear did come true?
- How good would it be if the best-case scenario came true?
The pace of our progress to reinvention may be found in the answers to these questions. Often our “worst-case” scenarios never happens, and even if it did, it may not be as bad as we imagine, while our “best-case” may be the exact thing which we’ve been searching for our entire lives. Even only getting partially to it may be far better than we can imagine. Which of these two questions we will focus upon will greatly determine our progress. Focus only on #1 and we slow our progress, but focus mainly on the possibilities represented by question #2 and we will be less likely to be paralyzed by the fear of risk. Courage will spring up within us when we keep our eyes on what positive things will come from reinventing ourselves into our better self.
Our reinvention lesson today: Have the courage to take risks.
Go reinvent yourself and lead well.