Risk-taking is critical to business success. But the starting point for taking smart risks should be inaction, not action.
Come on, you might be thinking, let’s fast forward to where the action is! Risk taking is James Bond throttling a motorcycle off a cliff and parachuting into a waiting speedboat; it’s Indiana Jones cracking his bullwhip at the bad guy; it’s John Rambo demolishing a foreign army all by himself; and it’s Lara Croft karate chopping a baldheaded villain.
At first glance, risk taking seems to always involve doing something. Risk taking is the protester marching, the rebel resisting, the entrepreneur innovating, the explorer discovering, and the writer opinionating. Surely risk taking, that glorious act of courageous audacity, hasn’t got anything to do with inaction.
But before one can act, one should decide what’s worth acting upon. If you study the best risk-takers, you’ll notice a period of intense calculation before initiating the risk. Think, for example, of Felix Baumgartner’s gigantically risky jump from 128,000 feet into the stratosphere. Before hurling himself toward the earth at terminal velocity, he methodically goes through an exhaustive checklist. Then, at the edge of the space capsule, he stops, breaths, calculates and, finally, jumps.
The reason silence is so important to risk taking is that it helps make your risks more deliberate, intentional, and directed. Silence, extended to the point of mental stillness, has a leveling effect on your perspective, sharpening your powers of discernment. Through silence, you become more attuned to your most deeply held beliefs and values, helping you perceive what risks are most compatible with your inner constitution and thus which are truly worth taking.
Risk taking is about purposeful action: matching the best of your intentions with the best of your behaviors. For your risk to be full of purpose, it has to be anchored to an ideal or a cause that you believe to be worthwhile. Silence is the mechanism we use to access our deeper level awareness-our inner gold.
When the risks you take emanate from the center of yourself, versus being imposed from the world outside, your conviction is higher and so is your commitment to taking the risk. Let’s face it, taking a risk because someone else tells you to is much less fulfilling than taking it of your own initiative. Silence is how we listen to ourselves.
For this reason, when readying for your risk it is helpful to follow this dictum: Careful reflection should precede purposeful action.
Question: What risks are you considering today? How do you need to stop and listen, before you leap?
About the Author
Bill Treasurer is a professional speaker and the Chief Encouragement Officer of Giant Leap Consulting. Bill has worked with thousands of executives from top organizations, including NASA, Accenture, CNN, UBS Bank, Spanx, Hugo Boss, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs.