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February 20

FEBRUARY 20TH: THE RISK-TAKERS

I was talking to someone in my working-world recently and they were talking about a “smart” statistics instructor they’d had during their years of education who had declared (I’m assuming based on the math) that starting a new business venture was so risky that they would never do it. This person then stated that they thought people who started businesses were not very smart to take such a huge risk.

I declined to point out the fact that their shoes, clothes and lunch were all created by privately-owned businesses, and that they would be walking through the city naked, shoeless and hungry if it weren’t for some enterprising, risk-taking butcher, baker or clothing-maker from the past. Instead I talked about why I had started my business (being one of these crazy, risk-taking souls myself). And I started to think about all the different kinds of smart.

I declined to point out the fact that their shoes, clothes and lunch were all created by privately-owned businesses, and that they would be walking through the city naked, shoeless and hungry if it weren’t for some enterprising, risk-taking butcher, baker or clothing-maker from the past.

 I thought I would mention a few here. But first, let’s talk a bit about risk, shall we?

It’s true that starting a new venture is risky. About 70% of small Canadian businesses survive the first 5 years, but that means that  a sad 30% don’t. And that’s only the first 5 years! Speaking of risky ventures, do you know of an (even riskier) venture that many people embark upon? Marriage. In Canada you’re looking at around a 60% success rate, with a 40% failure rate (currently 4 in 10 first marriages end in divorce – Stats Can, via this CBC article).

Does this mean all the smart people of the world are single, unmarried, living in bubble-wrapped rooms and working for the man? I heartily disagree.

I think there are more kinds of “smart” than you can shake your fist at. Math Smart, Academic Smart, Street Smart, Social Smart, the list goes on… frankly, I think our society tends to devalue some while overvaluing others. For example, I personally feel an equal need for people who can solve incredibly complex math problems, and people who know how to make really good lattes. Or who can carry on a pleasant conversation at a party.

Successful risk-taking requires its own unique combination of Smarts. A knack for choosing the right partners and employees. A talent for recognizing when you’re in the right place at the right time. And, most importantly in my eyes, the type of Smart that figures out what gets you up in the morning, and recognizes that the risk of pursuing (passionately) what you’re passionate about is far less risky than NOT doing the aforementioned things.

Risk is situational. Hiding out in the Home Cave is a safe place to be – unless a saber toothed tiger has followed you into the cave. Then the least risky thing for you to do is to fight (or run) for your life.

Thought of the day: If the tiger hasn’t eaten you yet, then you are all counted among the Risk Taking set.

 

5 Comments

  1. Great post and thanks for sharing. Again you remind me that I should jump with both feet but I keep coming back to the fear of failing and being part of that 30%. Sure, my hearts in it, I’m happier doing what I love for my clients/friends than I am working for the man but there’s still that financial fear of not making it.

  2. Wonderful post! I find this very true in my own experience and how much more I’m enjoying it even with the risks always trying to chase me down.
    Not saying I’m smart, but I’m learning a lot!

  3. Paul – I come against that fear ALL THE TIME. In the end, I try to remember that failing is the only way we learn ;)

    Mike – don’t be ridiculous, you know you’ll never be smart enough, which is the true definition of smart!

    Jennifer – total bollocks, and you know it. Unless you’re just saying it to be funny, in which case, I’m laughing…

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