Taking Risk in 2003: Dive In, The Water’s Great!

“If I always do what I’ve always done, I’ll always get what I’ve always got!” I first heard this quote (unfortunately without accreditation) back in 1990. Today, doing what you’ve always done might not even get you what you’ve always got&it might get you less! To get something different, you’ve got to do something different! What new or different results would you like to get, at work or elsewhere, in 2003? For yourself, or for your team or organization?

“If you want to get something different you have to do something different” is easy to appreciate, but putting this into practice is trickier. It’s like the cowboy and the horse. A loving, cooing, “Let’s go darling” whispered in the horse’s ear isn’t likely to make the horse go, go go. What is typically required? Put on your silver spurred cowboy boots, jump on board, grab the reins, while kicking the spurs into the poor animal’s ribcage, yelling “giddy up”! Why do we wait until it hurts–until we’re in literal or metaphoric pain–before we decide to get moving? How about getting moving on a new result you deeply desire, in 2003, before you feel the pain?

What risks are you ready to take in 2003? What skinny branches are you willing to explore, personally or professionally? What successes are you wishing and hoping, and thinking and praying for, in this brand new year? Edward DuBono (author of “The Six Thinking Hats”, “The Use of Lateral Thinking” and “Serious Creativity”) states, “Any successful person has chosen action against inaction. In any initiative or opportunity pursuit there is an element of risk.” You think you’re not a risk taker? Sure you are! These days getting out of bed and going out into the daily world is a risk! Saying “yes” to something, or “no” to something else, any day of the week, can be risky.

Examine your risk history. Think back and list at least one risk you’ve taken in each of these categories:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • mental/intellectual
  • spiritual
  • financial
  • occupational/professional

How old were you when you took these risks? Did you list risks from a long time ago or did you record risks from the past two or three years? How long ago has it been since you took an exhilerating chance? If it’s been quite a while, perhaps now is a good timethe start of a new yearto write a new page! For each of the risks you’ve identified, ask yourself:

  • What set of circumstances, and/or what thinking, allowed or inspired me to take this chance/this risk?
  • What had to happen around, or to me, before I was willing to take this chance?

Brainstorm your responses. Consciously look for patterns of personal behaviour and circumstance.


Interpret your results, and perhaps share your results and observations with one or two people who know you well, and are able to provide you with additional, beneficial observations. Use this examined results to help you plot and plan your carefully and thoughtfully calculated 2003 risk taking actions. By increasing your examination and awareness of your “right” prerisk taking circumstances and thinking, you will maximize the probability of getting the positive results which you are targeting. Increase your awareness of what you’ve done “right” in the past (attitudinally, behaviourally and strategically), to set yourself up for success in the risks you dare to take on in the future.

What’s moving you forward, or holding you back, as an individual or a team? Personally or professionally? Repeat this exercise in reverseexamine opportunities that you didn’t take because, at the time, you found them to be either too physically or emotionally risky. With reflection, do you have any regrets about not taking those chances? If not, terrific! If “yes”, ask yourself “Why?”. What set of circumstances or thinking caused you to hesitate? Did that mindset help or hinder what happened next for you? Did you go on to pursue that particular risk opportunity another day, or was it an opportunity seemingly lost forever?

Sometimes it’s definitely smart to think twice, and decide “no”, about taking some risks. Sometimesperhaps more times than notdeciding “no” turns into a life long regret, inspiring “should’ve and “could’ve” thinking forever more.

While learning to drive, my father repeatedly chanted, “If in doubt, don’t”. Good advice when driving. On the other handnot about drivingI’ve gained lots of inspiration and courage through the years from another quote, “Behold the turtle&who only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.” Indecision is a decision&a decision not to do anything! Better to make a mistake with the full force of your being, than to go through life (worklife or otherwise) head tucked inside a shell, tip toeing around so that others don’t know you exist, carefully avoiding giving your full gusto and energy to an action or idea, for fear of making even the faintest “mistake”.

And let’s take a look at the concept of a “mistake”! In some professions, a humdinger mistake can cost lives&just ask an airport worker who doesn’t put enough fuel in an airplane, or a surgeon who leaves a sponge or two inside a sewn up patient! Most of us, however, are not in professions in which our daytoday work would kill another. So making a mistake at work, every now and then, is organizationally acceptable. But before you start labelling your current results “mistakes”, consider a lesson in reframing your thinking. Thomas Edison is said to have conducted 10,000 experiments before successfully producing the light bulb. When asked, “How did you feel about your 10,000 mistakes, before you got it right?”, Edison declared it was a 10,001 step success rather than 10,000 mistakes and with one success!

What achievements or results have you or your team experienced over the years that were quickly labeled “failure”. Did you learn something? What not to do the next time, perhaps? Was there a good lesson in this experience? Did the first “mistake” pave the way for a later and bigger success? Sometimes that’s exactly what happens. What “Mistake/Success” stories come to mind for you? The one that quickly comes to my mind–it didn’t change the world, but it did make it a “sweeter” place–is the one about the Aero Chocolate/Candy Bar. All those distinct visible chocolate bubbles were created by a “mistake” in the chocolate making process, and the results were almost thrown away. What a pity that would have been! Are you thinking you could use one right now?

What ongoing work or personal efforts have you been labeling “failure”? How can you reframe your thinking, attitude and behaviour around your efforts and your current experience, to see your lessons and successes?


January is a terrific time to take up new, or renewed, action. Try this nine stepped challenge for starters:

  1. List three risks you’re ready to take on in 2003.
  2. Acknowledge fears you may have about taking these risks. Ask yourself, “What could go wrong? How would I feel about that? What would happen if I failed? Run the worst case scenario video in your head? be really melodramatic–you know it won’t turn out that bad!
  3. Flip your questions and answers to number 2, “What could go right? How would I feel about that?”
  4. List your cheerleaders. Who’ll positively cheer you on and help you “get there”?
  5. Ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Taking this calculated risk means that you will leave your comfort zone, at least for awhile. Are you ready for that? Do you have a Plan “B” and “C” in mind? That’s important, too. Even if you’re ready to take a calculated risk, always work with a net! Moving forward with your calculated risk may mean leaving some things behind, but you will gain others.
  6. Ask yourself, “What won’t happen for me if I don’t take this risk? Is that OK with me? Can I ‘live with it’/with things staying as they are, another year?”
  7. Exercise Intuition. Listen to your inner voice. Remember multiple choice tests from school days? Your intuitive first choice (when you weren’t sure of the answer) was usually the “right” one but, in so many cases, you waffled, or hesitated, and chose another (wrong) answer. Then you were left saying, “I knew I should’ve listened to my intuition!”
  8. Realize that there are no guarantees that you’ll always get the results you desire if you take the risks you’re contemplating, but there is always the opportunity to assess and reflect on what to do better next time. Remember&you’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!
  9. Research, research, research! Do your homework. Look things up. Read. Surf. Interview others with wisdom in the area of the risks you plan to take.

Helen Keller’s age old words of wisdom and inspiration about life and its challenges still serve as a good kick in the pants:

“Security is mostly superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Want to get something different in 2003? Do something different. Answer inaction with action. What actions will you take this year? What personal and professional risks will you chance? Take at least one! When you get to the end of December, 2003, what will your “Year in Review” look like? Sound like? Plan now, so that you’ll have great victories to report in 12 months’ time. Join the New Year’s Polar Bear Diving ClubDive InThe water’s great!

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