Monday, December 15, 2014

What I wish I had known :: Lesson 5 :: Take Risks

We normally associate negative outcomes with the phrase "take risks".  I believe that is because the bad outcomes are far more publicized than the good ones. When we take risks we "fail", "disintegrate", "degenerate", "lose", "fall behind".

I've been told that I take a lot of risks.  Really? I am not sure what that means, as I am of course, focusing on the term "lots of" vs "risks"!

Do I really take a lot of risks? Well .....

Am I normally the first to volunteer for something new?  Yes

Do I ink-in a goal without having any idea of how I am going to achieve it? Yes

Do I try something new for the heck of it? Yes

Do I change career tracks because I want to work on something new / off the beaten track? Yes.

Do these all work out?  Of course not!  But they teach me a lot.  And they don't scare me off. Actually. they never have!!

Just do it!

When I was 15 (just after my 10th board exams), I decided that I could no longer study in an all girls convent school.  I wanted more, I wanted something different.  So I checked out the schools in my locality (i.e. walking distance from home), found one that had a significant "Commerce" program, checked the references of the school by speaking with people, filled the registration forms.  Then I went to my dad to ask for the registration fee.  His response? "As your father, can I at least see the school you want to go to?". I said yes, he did, and the rest as they say is history.

Performance Ratings don't Matter

Early in my career, I was fortunate to work in an industry that was just about starting in the country, and in an organization that was entrepreneurial.  There were opportunities galore.  I raised my hand for many, many of them.  In a ~2 year period I worked on 6 different teams, with 6 different supervisors.  And tho' I thought did very well, I got "Average / Good" and not "Excellent" ratings as no one had consistent views on me. So what?  I learned a lot, I realized there was one more thing I did not want to do, I made more friends. I realized that I was a fast learner.  I developed stakeholder management skills.

Neither do Increment Percentages

Any risk or chance we take has a probability of failure.  And in a work scenario, the failure will result in bad ratings and hence bad increment percentages. In most of the risky things I have done, I have borne the consequences of failure.  And it hurt.  There have also been risks that had whopping success, and I reaped the benefits of those too. So if you are scared to take a risk, as a setback will  make you trail your classmates / colleagues in designation and pay, all I say is, "What is a setback (in terms of money & designation) 5 times in a 50 year work-life. Nothing." So take the risk.  Imagine what you can get when it succeeds!

It is Always the Right Time

I hear many people, specially during exit interviews, tell me that they believe that now is the right time to take a risk.  The right time varies from being "single", to "wife works", to "we have no kids or the kids are young", to "parents are independent", or "parents live with me / us", or "I am young", or "I am finished with all my obligations".  To all of them, I say, the time when you believe that a risk is worth it, is the right time for you.  Go forth and do what you want to.  

We all Take Risks

Anyone who says that they do not take risks are either living very boring protected lives or are lying.  We take risks all the time. We take risks when we become friends with someone whom we did not know existed in the near past, when we date, when we are at home, when we drive, when we drink.  Outcomes are not written in stone.  Each risk writes its own outcome based on how well prepared we are to manage potential and then real threats. Think of the biggest risk of all - marriage. Most of them work out, and those that don't, teach us valuable lessons.

Taking a risk, I think, is akin to riding a horse.  I am going to fall.  I am going to get bruised and maybe even break a few bones.  But I will get back on that horse as soon as I can. Because I want to ride free, jump hurdles, be airborne.


I Take Risks because It is OK to Fail


I Take Risks because I Want to Feel the Wind in My Face

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