Ordinary People, Extraordinary Risks

In the same way you learn leadership from leaders, law from lawyers, and art from artists, you learn most about risk-taking from risk-takers.

Skydiving risk takers

Emerson once wrote, “The great distinction between teachers sacred or literary is that one class speaks from within, or from experience, as parties and possessors of the fact; and the other class, from without, as spectators merely.”

We read many stories about real life risk-takers, including those from risk’s outer edges. However, even the extraordinary examples will be put in service to the ordinary risk-taker. Lessons from risk’s extreme edge can be applied well within its inner fold. Common truths are often most magnified through uncommon feats.

Just as courage, composure, and commitment are required of a fighter pilot, so too are they required of the young entrepreneur opening a business, the professor breaking free from the confining prejudices of an academic discipline, and the soldier defying an unjust or immoral order. Courage, composure, and commitment are equally required of the local politician taking a stand on an unpopular issue, the addict reaching out for help (and the jaded cynic reaching back), the young mother leaving the deadly comfort of an abusive relationship, and the volunteer firefighter running into a burning house.

Right Risk happens every day, everywhere. The promise woven into all Right Risks is our own relevancy. Each of us wants to feel that we have lived a life that matters. We want to make a difference for ourselves, for our families, for our communities, and for our world.

When the choices we make, and the actions we take, are reflections of our higher self, we are ennobled with the knowledge that our life has been worthwhile, at least to ourselves. In the end, the only person we will spend our entire life with is ourselves. We are a lot easier to live with when we are proud of who we are. And we are most proud of ourselves when we take Right Risks.

Consider the following questions:

  • In what areas of your life do you tend to take more risks (i.e., physical, intellectual, interpersonal, or emotional)? How might you be able to “borrow” from this area in order to take more risks in the areas of your life where you tend to avoid risk?
  • Review the four main criteria for a Right Risk: passion, purpose, principle, and prerogative. Based on these criteria, do you think your risk is a Right Risk, or something else?
  • Take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of the page. On the left, list some risks that turned out well. On the right, list the risks that turned out badly. Place check marks next to the risks on either column that met the criteria of having been Right Risks. Of those checked, which, if any, do you regret having taken?

About the Author

Bill Treasurer is a professional speaker and the Chief Encouragement Officer of
Giant Leap Consulting. His most recent book, Leaders Open Doors, became the top-selling leadership book on Amazon.

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