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The Upside To Risk Is Usually Bigger

I saw a great video this week. It’s about a Vanderbilt University student named Michael Pollack. He was attending an event on campus with Billy Joel. Billy was taking questions from the audience when Michael, who happens to be an accomplished piano player and huge Billy Joel fan asked if he could accompany Billy on “New York State of Mind.” Billy’s response was simply, “Okay.” The rest is history as you’ll see in this video:

Take A Chance
I love what Billy says at the end: “That’s what it takes to be a horn player in New York City. Take a chance.”

The thing is, that’s what it takes to do a lot of things. The problem with risk is that we fear the downside. We fear failure and rejection. We fear being wrong or making a total fool of ourselves. Those are just a few of the downsides to risking big (or small for that matter) and failing. I’m sure we could think of more.

But have you considered all the other stuff you learn when you risk and fail? You’re not guaranteed to succeed but you are guaranteed to learn a lot of things like:

  • You’ll learn what not to do.
  • You’ll learn at least one sure fire way that won’t work so you need not concern yourself with that path again.
  • You’ll learn some lesson about yourself that you didn’t know before.
  • You’ll something about business or people that you hadn’t seen before.
  • You’ll learn something that you’ll apply somewhere else and you wouldn’t have known it except for that failure.
  • You’ll know something that your competitors don’t know yet.

I have found that despite my failures there have always been valuable lessons and insight from the failure. In some cases the failures have been steps to future success like the time I bombed doing a presentation or when I started blogging and wrote really bad titles for my posts. I didn’t know I was paving the way for greater things.

In other cases I was learning that I didn’t need to pursue the path I was on. It’s such a relief when you know one of the paths before you is not the one to pursue. It’s very freeing.

When you shift your thinking to the valuable and inevitable upsides of risk, you’ll see that the opportunity, even if you fail, is likely bigger than not trying at all. From there you find that the riskiest thing you can do might be nothing at all. Unless of course, nothing is exactly what you need to do.  


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