September 15. “Progress involves risk. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” (Frederick B. Wilcox)
I once had a boss who told me that I was risk averse. She said that I was capable at my job, but that I didn’t stretch myself enough by taking risks. Ironically, at the time I was writing the Risk Management material and training for my company, and I was well tuned in to how to manage risk. I knew all about assessing risk, mitigating it, developing contingency plans, and resolving the issues that risks cause. I could and did teach it to others as a means of improving project success. But along the way I had stopped taking my own risks, and was limiting my growth.
Right around that time, and inspired partly by her observation, I decided to take one some things at work and in my personal life that were quite risky. I took on new responsibilities at work for delivering on training and other projects. Outside work I greatly stepped up my volunteer work, both at the Church and in Scouting. It was all risky. I could have failed in my increased items at work, and I could have crumbled under the weight of the extra work I was taking on at home. But, I took the risks anyway.
What happened was that my job responsibilities ended up growing even further. My professional reputation grew, and with it came new and interesting assignments. Outside work my successes mounted and I was able to make a real difference in the lives of many youth in my community. I grew personally from all of this as I took on new skills and new assignments.
When I started taking on risks, when I tried to do things that I hadn’t before, I grew.
Sometime later I took the Dale Carnegie class. In that class I learned (and later taught), that only when I ventured outside my comfort zone would I grow. The longer I stayed within the friendly confines of my comfort zone, the more opportunities I passed.
Growth and progress involve risk. Only when I am willing to take a chance of looking foolish, of making mistakes, of failing an attempt at something will I grow. If elect to always do what I have always done, then I will never get far.
Like anyone, I go through phases when I really want to be in that zone of comfort. These days, those phases don’t last very long. I greatly prefer to pick prudent places to throw caution to the wind and try something new. I know that when I do that, I will find success previously unimagined.