No opportunity comes without risk; they are forever linked in perfect union. It's a marriage made in heaven - opportunity and risk - proving that opposites do attract. One is filled with optimism and hope, while the other is dark and mysterious. They are forever connected as soul mates. With opportunity, you can find success and personal satisfaction, but the catch is you can't have opportunity without choosing risk too.
Throughout my 8 part series for the WITI Newsletter I have been making the case that long-term success, as a leader or entrepreneur, is only possible if you have the courage to embrace risk each and every day. The unforgiving nature of a competitive marketplace dictates that we must continually push ourselves, those we manage, and ultimately the entire company forward, and this requires grabbing opportunities that continually present themselves. However, when we are presented with the prospect of risk connected to opportunity human nature initiates a defense mechanism that instinctively impedes our progress.
Risk is really about choices. Life amounts to a multitude of situational options presenting themselves continually; we manage our lives through making a series of decisions that lead to outcomes. The circumstances that lead you to a decision point are irrelevant because it is the choice you make that determines your future. Want to spend the rest of your life with someone? Then make the choice to establish a relationship and accept the risk of heartbreak. Have an entrepreneurial dream that you believe is worth millions? Then choose to embrace the risk of entrepreneurship and potentially heavy financial loss.
You make the choice: Go or No go! But this is where confusion arises: We think we want certainty in life, and so the road that appears less risky seems more appealing, even when it's without opportunity. Too bad that certainty is the biggest illusion of all. You can waste a lifetime avoiding opportunity and risk, believing that certainty is yours, only to be fooled when it's needed most.
In making my case for enthusiastically embracing risk for the sake of opportunity I have identified two essential risks that are the key to long-term success - Decide and Change. Just as the human body needs essential nutrients to remain healthy and strong, a business also requires these two important risks to keep progressing.
Decision making is a key component of execution and execution is what transforms a plan into reality. Indecision is the mental paralysis that prevents us from moving forward. We fear decision making because we fear a potential bad outcome. But when no decisions are made, for fear of a bad outcome, then nothing happens and you stagnate.
There is nothing more important to the survival of a business than change. It is the one essential risk that is the hardest to accept, yet without change a business and an individual is doomed to irrelevance. Change is opportunity and it comes in two forms, internal and external. Internal change happens within the business walls. External is customer facing and known as innovation. The three keys to implementing change are communication - clearly communicate the reason for a desired change; inclusion - allow all parties to give their input by including them in the discussion; and participation - make the implementation of change a team effort.
No one is successful in business without a strong foundation and framework to build upon. I advocate the use of the Winner's Framework, a simple 4-prong approach to facing down any risk. However, to build an effective organization requires a sturdy foundation, which can support the weight of responsibility and an ever-shifting environment. This can only be achieved when one has a strong character and a Winner's Mindset.
Embracing risk requires an "I want to win" attitude rather than playing not to lose. Playing not to lose is the result of being conditioned to avoid or minimize risk- protect the lead and don't take risk. Unbelievable as it seems, not everyone in the business world plays to win. In fact, more people would rather not lose than win. This stems from our natural desire to avoid losing which is called loss aversion.
The second step in the Winner's Framework is having a simple plan, where we need clarity instead of certainty. Those who believe that success can be attained through their guile or instincts are playing a fool's game. Great accomplishments do not happen by chance or through the result of random activities, you must have a plan.
Once you have a plan, our third step is to execute the plan. Execution is transforming theory into reality. Each day you should focus on "making something happen" as it is only from "doing" that we can ultimately succeed.
Finally, have an objective and know the "score", where you stand versus where want to be. By constantly evaluating the results of your execution of the plan you will discover what works and also what doesn't. When you find a winning formula you simply repeat it over and over while still maintaining a steadfast watch on the results. When things don't seem to be working like they did in the past, embrace the risk of change.
No career or business plan is free from the perils of an ever changing business or economic environment. We all have moments in our lives when it appears the world is against us but relying on hope to solve our problems instead of definitive action exiles one into a prison of false reality. As a Prisoner of Hope we live in a world with no tangible consequences and where persistence is a false virtue. To escape the Prison of Hope a business leader must refocus their efforts on execution. Only through action can one release themselves from the false reality of hope and into the real world of progress. Reaffirming your commitment to the goal of success will transform apathy into enthusiasm, which will ignite your motivation.
My final recommendation when is all business leaders need to encourage a culture of failure which will allow for innovation and creativity to flow, non-stop, like an Artesian Well. The traditional business mindset is to punish and penalize for failure. In a company, this breeds fear and stagnation. As people who must work for a living, we fear making a mistake, so naturally our instinct for self-preservation prevents experimentation or embracing risk. In order to truly create a dynamic success story, you must first free yourself and your team from fear of failure. Create an atmosphere where failure is accepted and viewed as a positive step toward ultimate success. When you give people the freedom to fail, you are also giving them the freedom to succeed.
We seek opportunity; yet we must embrace risk in order to take advantage of opportunity. Every day opportunity comes our way. It is always present and available, but it comes with a caveat that causes us to hesitate and think, "Do I really want this opportunity?" You surely want all the benefits, riches, fame, and status, but the thought of embracing the risk is daunting. As a wise man once said, "It's the bone that comes with the steak, yet it's the best-tasting steak on any steakhouse menu."
The unexpected edge for success starts with identifying a worthy risk and then having the courage to take it.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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