To win you have to take risks


I'm still on vacation…

By now, given I've mentioned it in most of my recent posts, you know I'm on vacation this week in Cabo San Lucas. It's been a really relaxing time. But I still write every day. It's not just because I still have words left at the end of the day. It's that I find the discipline is good for me.

…with good friends…

All that said, I've spent the week with a close friend who happens to work with me. His wife also happens to be one of my wife's closest friends. So it's always great to vacation with them.

…talking about the Green Bay Packers….

There's another thing you need to know about Seth. He's a hard core Green Bay Packer fan. I mean, if they'd lost this last weekend, part of our vacation would have been a day of mourning. You with me?

…while preparing talks…

This week I've also been putting finishing touches (code for doing a lot of editing and removing of stories) on two talks I'll be presenting next week. One of them references, for maybe 40 seconds, the Green Bay Packers.

So with my resident expert, we chatted a bit about them tonight. That led me to more research, which led me to today's post.

NFL Trivia

If I asked you (without any of the context above) who had fumbled the ball the most in the NFL, would you know? I wouldn't know without looking it up. I would have guessed someone known for teflon hands as a running back or something. But that would highlight how little I know about the NFL.

The answer: Brett Favre.

What if I asked you which quarterback, throughout all history, had thrown the most career interceptions? I wouldn't have a clue without looking it up. I would have guessed some quarterback I'd never heard of. Because the assumption I would have made was that he'd been so bad that no one ever talked about him. But I'd be wrong again.

The answer: Brett Favre.

Winners Take Risks

Here's the simple truth I'd like to share with you – and I've told you this before in other ways (see this post with my equation for success) – taking ridiculous risks is stupid. Taking smart risks is strategic. Knowing the difference makes all the difference in the world.

What I love about the Brett Favre example is that he's also the guy that has the most wins for a starting quarterback (186).  See how that all comes together.

If you're going to work hard, and take intelligent risks, the results may be the most wins ever. But it may also include setting records you never expected.

“Live with the consequences”

One of the refrains often heard in my home growing up was that we had to learn to live with the consequences of our choices. Now I can be honest and tell you that I didn't always guess right when it came to predicting those consequences. But it was a lesson worth learning.

My friend Brian Gardner made a shift on his blog recently, moving to sharing more personal articles rather than just code snippets. And each day he sees people unsubscribe from his mailing list.

He's learning to live with those consequences. And he may set a new record for number of people that unsubscribe in a week. But guess what? No one will care. Because that's not what he'll be known for.

Instead, it's likely people will know him for all the amazing things he's done with Genesis (a theme framework for WordPress). Or maybe he'll be known for pulling a smaller and far more powerfully engaged group of people into another journey with his blog.

Either way, he's willing to live with the risks he's taking. (note: I'm still subscribed over there and recommend that you do too. He's writing good stuff!)

Taking risks is risky. Expect nervousness!

My equation for success, which I referenced earlier, was pretty simple.

Hard work, hard work, hard work, leap!

The leap is the risk-taking. And your risk today (or tomorrow) might be small. That's ok. But it's worth doing, because over time you develop risk-taking muscles. And the more risks you take, the better you get at managing your fear.

Notice I didn't say eliminating your fear.

As I prepare new talks, I get nervous. Now I'm a pretty decent enough presenter that most people just assume it's all natural with little practice or preparation. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Every talk takes a lot of prep. Sometimes I spend 30 minutes of research for 2 minutes of a presentation. It's why I like developing and delivering one new talk a year.

But this year I've rolled three already with two more coming. Which has meant a lot of hard work (3x).

And still, with all that prep and hard work, I still get nervous for the moment when I get on a stage and leap. But years of taking risks also has given me muscles and skills for dealing with my nervousness so that I can do what I do when I do it.

What risks are you taking?

As you think about your work, your hobbies, and every other context you find yourself in, ask yourself this:

Am I taking any risks that give me the chance to get even better than the current trajectory of my life?

Let me know what you find out!