I had lunch with a colleague today. He’s young, smart, and creative … and in a job where he cannot possibly exercise all his talents.
(Kind of the way I like to think of myself!)
But he has a good-paying job. And a mortgage. And 3 kids. And a wife.
So it’s hard. Hard to take the plunge. Hard to take the risk. Hard to not settle. After all, if he has a hard landing, it’s not just him at risk.
And yet, a good-paying job doing often-interesting work is not enough. It’s not enough for him, and it’s not enough for me. There are some people who won’t settle – can’t settle.
Settling means dying, even if just a little. To settle, you have to kill your dreams, or at least shut them off, wall them up.
The colleague I had lunch with is not willing to do that. I’m not willing to do that. Someone, I think Eleanor Roosevelt, said that the biggest risk is not taking any risks at all.
The challenge is risk management.
In other words, if you’re going to take a risk outside the cozy corporate womb, have your ducks in a row. Plan it for some time in advance. Have a fairly large sum of money (12 months worth of living expenses, I think) in reserve. Then go for it.
You might as well ask why we live. Life is risk. Doing the same thing over and over, always staying within the lines, always doing the safe thing, is not life.
Life is experimentation. Life is change – without change there is no life. Literally, when you stop changing, you’ll be dead.
I want to live.
[ update ]
I just saw this article on risk-taking. It gives the following three reasons why people take risks:
- the drive to transform the tension of unresolved emotional conflicts from childhood into individual expression, vindication and mastery,
- the drive of a “lonely crusader” determined to challenge the group’s or the organization’s need to preserve the status quo, and
- the drive of profound self-awareness and alienation: “the person (must) construct a framework of meaning that is personal rather than imposed externally.”