How to Become a Smart Risk Taker
Men have been conditioned for the last several generations to sit quietly and wait. In our acculturation and in the overwhelming sense of safety modern society provides, the human habit of risk taking has all but disappeared. But living outside of the comfort zone is risky by definition; you don’t know exactly where your feet will land, if you’ll fall, or if you can get up. Growth can only occur when we step outside the boundaries of the known in the process of risk taking, so read on to find out how to dig deep for your biggest risks and rewards.
To make sure that you don’t wind up in the gutter, it’s important to take smart risks that you can profit from no matter what the outcome is. Risking is much different than gambling in the sense that gambles are all or nothing; genuine risks always have some measure of gain. If you invest heavily in your risks, you can ensure some gain no matter what the outcome. And the more practiced you are at taking risks as a course of habit, the greater risks you can eventually own.
If Evel Knievel started his career bounding over 20 buses at a time, he wouldn’t have been Evel Knievel for very long. If you’ve grown up like most men in the U.S, you’ve been in a near constant state of security your entire life. And if you aren’t practiced in risking, failing, and getting back up again, taking a big risk and failing can put you out of the game for good. So start small.
The reward of great risks often lures unprepared men to their doom, and the embarrassment of small risks leads men unprepared to tackle the greatest risks. When unprepared men fail severely enough, they become invulnerable to taking even the smallest risk, which closes the loop. To avoid that gloomy scenario, building up a long-term scale of risk taking is the smart decision to achieve bigger risks and greater rewards. Going through the ropes of smaller risks might seem boring or pointless, but a valuable lesson is acquired in the process: a lesson in humility.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and the grand illusion is that the people who have conquered the greatest risks have done so without flaw for all of their lives. It’s almost as if we’re embarrassed to take smaller risks because of other’s opinions, but the mightiest risk takers come from extraordinarily humble backgrounds.
Tony Robbins, world-renowned performance coach, was homeless when he first started out. Kimanzi Constable, a rising-star success coach who speaks all around the world, began his career when he was a bread delivery mean. Brendon Burchard, founder of Experts Academy and best-selling author, was bankrupt before he made his launch. These and many of the great risk takers of our time all had to start with smaller obstacles before they developed the knowledge, the passion and the belief to confront greater risks.
Once you make risk taking a habit with a long-term progression, you’ll be open to taking the greatest risks when the opportunity presents itself, and you’ll be prepared.
Everyone gets their opportunities to shine in this life, but what separates the Supernovas from the brown dwarves is the level of preparedness. Building yourself up with a gradual series of risks will increase your confidence and ability to handle fear when it comes. If the opportunity of a lifetime comes, a prepared mind will be motivated to leap through that window while an undisciplined mind will be provoked to run and hide.
Invulnerable men are unable to assess themselves honestly and realistically. If you are too frightened or ashamed to face deficiencies in your actions, then you won’t be able to improve your actions to land the big risk. Vulnerability, however, unlocks the courage and the wisdom required to meet our greatest risks.
Vulnerability means having complete transparency with yourself, and faith that you can improve regardless of what you’ve done. Vulnerability is admitting where you have failed and loving yourself despite the failure. Vulnerability is essential in taking smarter and bigger risks because it unlocks the courage needed for great risks. Without vulnerability, courage becomes mere idiocy, or testosterone-fueled recklessness.
You can grow your vulnerability by accepting yourself no matter what you have done and by starting a positive internal dialogue that reads something like this: “If I fall, I will get up. If I look like a fool while risking greatly, I will hold my head up high and learn from my mistakes, believing in myself regardless. No matter where I have come from or what I have done, I can improve my actions always. It is okay for me to feel fear because I have the faith in myself to respond positively.”
Invulnerability stems from the fear of looking like an idiot, but what could look more idiotic than a grown man stuffed inside bubble-wrap packaging? If you can praise your efforts no matter your results, then you can grow the vulnerability that is key in taking the biggest risks.
If you don’t care about something, you’re not going to be invested in making big leaps. Your best friend will do things for you that no one else will because he has invested time, energy, and hope. Loving parents will take risks for their children because of the enormous care they have built. And entrepreneurs in every field imaginable make the leap to full time self-employment only after they care sufficiently enough about their pursuit to persist no matter what.
If you want to start taking bigger risks, take the steps to care more about what you love. Invest all of your free time in that one thing that you can never be fully satisfied in exploring. Read all that you can about the subjects that arouse your curiosity. The more you care about something, the more you will learn and the more prepared you will be to take big risks when the time comes.
Making risks for things you care about is a world different than merely doing reckless thing because when you genuinely care about something, you know all you can about it. Take the monumental risks of Alex Honnold, for instance. He is a free-solo rock climber who scales sheer vertical faces thousands of feet tall. This man’s only safety is the wisdom, practice, and faith that has come as a result of caring for the sport.
Can you imagine being 1,500 feet high on a vertical rock face without caring? Because Honnold cares so much about rock climbing, he has unlocked the greatest risks and reaped the greatest rewards. But his care doesn’t stem from a genetic trait (though his father was a rock climber); it came from an intention to get better at rock climbing. His focus never wavered and he persisted, and through his persistence his care grew. You wouldn’t think that dangling from a cliff face 2,000 feet above the ground would be exactly careful, but for Honnold, it is.
A secondary function of increasing how much you care is in getting back up when you fall. Not every successful risk taker has made each leap without a crash and burn; in fact, the greatest risk takers are the ones who have gotten back up the most. When you know enough about something to provide a measure of safety in the event of a fall, you’ll be able to pick yourself back up to make smarter and bigger risks the next time. (This may or may not apply to free solo rock climbing)
If you want to unlock the skill and faith required for the greatest leaps, start caring more about what you do. Caring isn’t the result of fate, nor is it dependent on any factor other than your focus and intention. The more you focus on any given thing and the more you intend to grow in it, the more you will care. Caring isn’t a magical thing, but a function of hard work that applies to everything from wives, to careers, to hobbies and community involvement.
If risk taking weren’t in our nature, we wouldn’t have accomplished the endless volumes of achievement throughout human history. If you want increase satisfaction in being a man, make smart risks a habit.