Sunday, March 15, 2009

How to Take Smart Risks

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing and becomes nothing. – Leo Buscaglia

Do you want to start your own business or invest in the stock market? Are you considering offers for jobs overseas? Or are you planning on asking your best friend or officemate on a date to confess your true feelings?

All these things involve taking risks. If you want to get the things you want and get ahead in life, you usually have to take a risk. After all, with nothing risked, there’s nothing gained.

Taking risks is something normal because in anything you do, you’re taking some sort of a risk, voluntarily and involuntarily. If you get on an airplane, there’s a chance that it may crash and get you killed. If you’re walking in the street, there’s a one-in-a-million chance that you might get hit by a car or struck by lightning.

Taking risks can be scary at first because there are negative connotations to it, like danger and possible loss. But of course, risks do have a positive side. Without risks, you can’t experience a big return on an investment. Or a future trip down the aisle all because you weren’t afraid to ask your partner out on that first date.

As part of skill building and career advice, you have to learn how to take risks because taking or not taking a risk can be either be the smartest or the stupidest thing you can do with your life.

But all risks are not equal. The smartest risks are the ones where the benefits outweigh the downsides.

So how do you know if you’re making a smart risk?

Knowing What You Want Is the Key to Taking Smart Risks

Many people are living their lives just to please other people, or are having the kind of life they think they should have, rather than living the life they really want.

Business coach and psychologist Gary Leboff says that if you don’t make an effort to get what you want, life probably won’t turn out the way you want it to. The key, then, is to know what you want first and start taking the risks that you think would get you there.

If you want to improve your social life, you should ask your friends to introduce you to other people, or you could join a new group or club. If you need more money, then maybe it’s about time to ask your boss for a raise.

Your initial risks don't need to be life-changing in magnitude. Take it slow to find the confidence you need for bigger risks in the future. That confidence will come, sooner or later, because the more risks you take, the better your judgment becomes.

Here are some things to remember that will help you make smart risks:

  • Don't risk everything. You should only risk something that won't leave you financially ruined, emotionally scarred or physically disabled in case things go horribly wrong.
  • Ask for what you want. You’ll be surprised that more often than not, you will get it.
  • Take positive risks. You should not put yourself or others at risk of physical or emotional harm.
  • Be open to failure. You should be at peace with the possibility of failure because it’s part of taking risks. Learn from your failures by finding out where you went wrong so you can apply what you’ve learned when you take your next risk.
  • Start taking risks right away. Get started on small risks like trying a new type of food, putting on clothes that are not part of your usual style, getting a different haircut or going to some place you've never been before.
  • Stop worrying about what others may think. It’s your life, your risk and your gain. People, including those close to you, will always have different views. What’s important is you know what you want.
  • If there's nothing to lose, don’t hesitate to take the risk.
Also, these six signs will tell you when it’s NOT a good idea to take a risk. Forget about risking something if:
  • There's a good chance you could lose everything
  • You’re putting so much on the line with only a little to gain
  • Too many factors are out of your control
  • You feel that the odds are against you
  • It’s impossible to fix the outcome if things go wrong
  • If there’s little time to evaluate or prepare before having to take the risk
If you’re still unsure of taking that first risk, keep in mind that there’s always a risk involved in order to get what you want.

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