Anything and everything you do has a risk and/or a benefit. Any business consists of a series of weighing risks versus benefits for decisive actions. For a new business owner, this can be a scary reality, but take comfort in the saying that it’s not only okay to fail, it’s necessary for success. In fact, the sooner you fail, the faster you recover and the quicker you learn from your mistakes.
Don’t be afraid of taking risks. You should make well-informed, sound decisions, but don’t be afraid to take a little leap of faith sometimes. It’s the bold and daring that often make breakthroughs and wild successes despite all odds.
The Trails of Success and Failure
When I was younger, my parents would take the family to the park for a little exercise. There were hiking trails that we would take from time to time. My siblings and I would pick out a sturdy walking stick, use it for a short time, and discard it for better sticks along the way.
We always traveled the paths in a group. If one of us got too far ahead, my dad would call us back. We actually kept together most of the time but we would always fight over who would lead. I was not the only stubborn kid in the family and often times I had to yield to others because I was the oldest and should know better. I remember one such day of vying for position as leader, trying to walk faster than the other siblings and shoving our sticks forcefully into the paths (sometimes, “accidentally” into the others’ feet). We were all getting too far ahead of the group. My dad pulled me aside and told me to let my sister lead this time. I can still recall his clever approach to resolve the tension.
“It’s not so bad being second on the trails,” he said. “Besides, the leader always gets spider webs in their face.”
Well played, dad. Well played.
Business is a lot like those trails and the trials they present. If you want to be the leader, you risk a lot more than someone who is following. You get to deal with the spider webs. You chance getting a walking stick to the foot from your competition. You have a greater chance of stumbling because you are racing to stay on top.
But the leaders get the glory. They get the thrill of discovery in uncharted territory. They set the standard for their market. The leader chooses the paths that most will follow. They are revered, respected, and idolized as the celebrities of their niche.
A Risky Dreamer’s Reward
One of those memorable hikes in the park sticks out in my mind. Like I said earlier, in order to hike, we had to stick together as a group. The family had hiked for a while and it was time for a break. I remember us being deep in the woods. That was when I decided to get up and start walking. I knew my parents would tell me to come back if I went too far, but I was ready to go, so I took a few steps off the path, climbing through the weave of trees and brush.
I eventually went out of sight of my parents and expected to hear them call. They didn’t call, so I kept going. The further I went, the more insecure I felt, but I pushed on, not knowing why. There were several times when I wanted to turn back, but for some reason, I decided to go just a little further. Each time it was harder. At last, I felt that I should go back to the group. I was so far away that I didn’t know if I would hear them calling me. However, I decided to make it past one more throng of bushes.
I pushed through and fell on sandy ground. Looking around I realized that I had stumbled onto the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The trees were a gorgeous reddish brown color and their red and yellow leaves covered the ground. The fallen leaves formed little boats making their way down a small stream and disappeared over a gentle waterfall that was about a foot high. Even the sun seemed to shine differently in this special place. It’s rays reached through the trees, grasping for the ground, sharing it’s warmth. Birds were bathing in the water, squirrels were running up the trees, if I had looked closer I probably would have seen small fish swimming happily in the stream. It was all there: a dream that had somehow slipped into reality.
This special place was the reward of taking a huge risk. If I had turned back at any time, I would have never made it. Every decision you make in business has a risk attached to it.
What about my parents? I broke the rules! Yes, I did. I give you permission to break the rules sometimes. Think outside of the box but remember that it’s all part of the risk. You are in control and you decide what you need to do. Should you go against your ethics or morals? No, absolutely not, but some clients will need more help than others to make the sale. Some vendors will need more persuading. They will need alternative solutions and bold requests in order to make things work for you. You can be afraid to try things, but don’t let that stop you from trying. Be flexible. Most importantly, be daring.
Oh, and try not to thrust your walking stick into anyone’s foot too forcefully. People tend to remember that kind of pain for a long time.
Your turn. Tell me about your risks. How do you overcome your obstacles? What scares you like nothing else?