I want to take you back about 10,000 years ago to the savannah in Africa. There are only about 1,500 human beings on the planet, and life is a scary existence. As far as predators go, we don’t stand much of a chance. We don’t have claws, or razor sharp teeth with fangs. We aren’t very strong or fast, and we don’t have any cool defense mechanisms like shells, venom, stingers, or even camouflage. Needless to say, it paid to be fearful on the savannah. Fear, vigilance, and worry kept us alive. Luckily for us, we got smart fast. We made weapons, formed teams, and used communication to pass along knowledge and defend ourselves. Five coordinated humans with spears stand a much better chance against a lion than one man in hand to hand combat.
What does that have to do with business and our lives today? Well, as we got smarter and more advanced, fear became less and less useful to us. Think about it; when was the last time you heard someone say, “I need to work on my fear. I just don’t think I am very good at being afraid,”?
Fear was valuable when failure was fatal, but in today’s business world, it doesn’t have much value. Today, we are concerned about happiness, success and living a life of purpose. We have evolved up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from survival up to self-esteem and self-actualization. The problem is that fear gets in the way of those things. Fear will hold you back from growing, stretching your comfort zones, and taking risks that can bring the rewards of success and self-esteem. Fear and failure is universal; it’s part of the human experience. Only by risking failure can we accomplish anything great. No guts, no gain. So I would like to challenge you with a decision-making model that might help you increase your risk tolerance and develop some guts to go after all your wildest dreams.
First, ask yourself if the risk fatal. If the worst case scenario is fatal to yourself or your organization, your fear is justified and you should not take that risk. Second, ask yourself if the best case scenario is desirable. If you believe the best case scenario is something good for you or your company, then take the risk. Now obviously there are options of some pretty severe levels discomfort before you get to fatal, some rewards will be minor and other great, and there are odds on each outcome but this basic model works. Let’s try it.
Say you are thinking about going skydiving. The worst case scenario, while not likely, could be fatal. The best case scenario is you have a great time, a once in lifetime experience, and great story to tell. The best case scenario is desirable, but the worst case scenario could be fatal. Under this model, I would say not to go skydiving. There are other ways to have a great time and good story than to risk your life.
Now let’s try one about business. You are thinking about calling that dream client, the elephant that could make your career. The worst case scenario is they say no and they still not your client, but you live to fight another day. The best case scenario is they had been meaning to call you or didn’t know your service existed, and they make your year or career with one call. Obviously, that scenario would be desirable, and the worst case scenario is a little disappointment, but basically where you are right now anyway. You have nothing to lose! They can’t get any more NOT your client than they already are..take that risk! Not risking in this scenario is the surest way of losing. No Guts, No Gain!
A life without risk is a life without growth. We have a Sandler Rule for this: You can’t get to second with one foot on first. In life and business there is no status quo! You are either growing or regressing. Success in 2014 and beyond sometimes depends more on the will to jump than on being concerned about what will happen if you fall. So, in the new year, I challenge you to get gutsy and pursue your dreams. Remember, No Guts, No Gain!