Entrepreneurs are often given the credit for being the risk-takers. We are the ones pictured as taking the leap of faith and throwing our careers and concerns for stability aside to begin something all our own. While there is a great reward in store for those who make it to the other side, this comes at the risk of miscalculating our steps, not making ends meet and losing it all for something that adds up to absolutely nothing. This is a large risk no doubt, but I no longer see this as the most dangerous risk we stand to take in life. The most dangerous risk of all is the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet that you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later. It’s the risk most of us take every day in our life and in our careers, not by consciously making risky choices, but by subconsciously burying them deep within. It’s not the risk of losing comfort and stability that we should be most scared of, it’s the risk of never knowing anything else.
I used to be one of these dangerous risk takers. I remember thinking that if I could hang in there so many more years I would be able to ensure a stable retirement package. This would have cost me almost a decade more of my life, yet I was willing to look at it as a worthy investment of my time all for the promise of finally being able to do what I really wanted several more decades down the road. I was only 23 yet I was sitting there, in my windowless cubicle, convincing myself that doubling the years of my life with work I felt no passion toward was the smart and stable investment. In retrospect, the “quarter-life crisis” that came on not too many weeks later and seen by some as reckless and arrogant, truly saved my life.
We all have a life that can be saved. This doesn’t mean we need to be to the point of depression or dark thoughts, this simply means we all have years of our life that we are at the risk of misusing with meaningless work unless some inspiration or motivation should force us to see our future one of two ways. If you’re unhappy with where you are right now, whether this is in your personal life or your career, you can take one type of risk which is to change it. With this, you risk being pushed outside your comfort zone, thrown into entrepreneurial survival mode and challenged to explore who you really are and what you’re made of. This is not comfortable nor is it stable. Or you can take another type of risk which is to do absolutely nothing. It may not feel like you’re making an active decision to take such a risk, which is what makes it the most dangerous risk of all. It’s the risk that slowly creeps into our lives disguised as comfort and stability. Only years later can we look back and see that at the risk of keeping these two crutches, we lost years spent living something much more fulfilling.
With so much emphasis placed on retirement as the time in our lives when we can finally do what we actually want, it becomes engrained in us early on that we must work the majority of our lives to fully enjoy it only when we’re old. But what about fully enjoying life while you’re young? This doesn’t come with the recommendation of quitting your job with no plan or living life as an aimless drifter. Much to the contrast, this comes with the recommendation of having a very specific plan that aligns you with making a passionate living and creating an extraordinary life at every age. It means setting goals and taking the initiative to meet them – something that dangerous risk takers don’t do. And it means creating the type of life that you’re excited to live every day, not just when you’re 55 and ½.
While you may not think you embody a real risk taker, just remember that if you’re not willing to risk it all…you already are.