- July 30, 2019
- Posted by: Phillip Van Hooser
- Category: Professionalism and Success
I am going to make an assumption about you — you want to be more successful. That’s why you’re here. While there are many things that can be done in order to be more successful, I am going to discuss two actions you can take starting today.
Have you ever dreamed of having or doing or trying something? Something that was really important to you but you could never bring yourself to take the actions necessary to make that thing happen? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Hear me carefully, if you want to be more successful, you must take more calculated risks.
My father and I regularly drove through the countryside during my childhood. There was one particular farm along the way that every time my dad and I passed that farm, year after year my dad would say exactly the same thing, “I should have bought that farm.” He didn’t need to say more. I knew the story too well. 30 plus years earlier, an opportunity to purchase this particular farm had come his way. He wanted it. He wanted it desperately, but he hesitated. Now, his reasoning for passing on the opportunity made perfect sense to almost everyone at the time. He had legitimate concerns. Concerns such as limited resources, uncertainty of the future, imperfect timing, competing obligations and of course there was simple garden variety risk.
You know, the dictionary defines risk several ways, but this is my favorite. Risk, the chance of experiencing unfortunate consequences by engaging in some action. Listen to that again. The chance of experiencing unfortunate consequences by engaging in some action. That could be anything. Unfortunate consequences could be the result of going to college, getting married, buying a home, having children, taking a job, accepting a promotion, going on vacation. The list is literally endless, but remember these very same risky activities also happen to serve as the very things that provide a sense of motivation, gratification, fulfillment, happiness, appreciation, even joy. All of which ultimately enhance the quality of our lives.
Unfortunately in the end, my dad didn’t buy that farm and the opportunity never came around again. His focus was fixed on all the possible unfortunate consequences rather than on the possible opportunities for success and he ended up paying a hefty emotional price. For the rest of his life, he regretted his inactions. Author T.S. Elliot once said, “Only those who are willing to risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” I’m not a gambler and I’m not suggesting you should be. But I am encouraging you to evaluate calculated risks more intentionally before walking away from an opportunity.
Questions to Ask
Here are four questions to ask yourself this week as you encounter situations that might seem a bit risky on the surface.
- What’s the absolute worse thing that could happen here? Be honest. Make a list.
- What’s the absolute best thing that can happen here? Make another list.
- Am I willing and able to handle the possible consequences of either or both? Anticipate your risk tolerance.
- Is it worth the risk?
Never Give Up
If you want to be more successful, you must never give up. The world appreciates fighters – I know I do – men and women who struggle to overcome apparently insurmountable odds on their way to doing and becoming more than anyone could have ever imagined they would. Luckily, peak performing success is not a function of an individual’s intellect, or education, or opportunity, or even overall support system. Each of those is a wonderful advantage, but unfortunately not every leader is blessed with such advantages.
For many of us, there comes a time when we must depend solely on our internal resolve. We must buckle down, bow our necks, and do what’s necessary, as unpleasant as the task at hand may seem, in order to get the job done. Does that sound like a motivational speech to you? If so, sorry, but that’s what I’m feeling today. I’m feeling a need to encourage and remind leaders everywhere that, when things don’t go exactly as you had planned or wished, you can’t just throw in the towel, quit, and go home. Your role as a leader demands much more. Your followers expect much more.
Consider these words from Theodore Roosevelt: “It’s hard to fail, but it’s worse to never have tried to succeed. Therefore, do what you can with what you have where you are. And as a result, far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
Create Your Own Success
For over 30 years I have helped leaders across the country improve their performance so they can be more successful. But, at the end of the day, to be even more successful than you are, you must choose to take more risks and never give up. Mark Twain once wrote 20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did. So, throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. So today, take the risk and don’t give up.
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