june newsletter: risk & reward [2019]

June 7, 2019

“Take the risk or lose the chance.”
-Author Unknown

I had a newsletter for June ready to go and couldn’t send it. It was a good newsletter – very relevant – but for whatever reason, it wasn’t the right one for this month. I don’t know if you ever write people letters and don’t send them. I may be alone in that, but it’s the same concept.

Risk-taking is scary for lots of people, myself included. We rely on the expected reward to take the risk or we calculate the probability of a favorable outcome to determine the extent to which we take the risk. This is by no means a bad thing. We should calculate the estimated ROI before making the investment. We should know our spouse well before we get married. We should order a thorough inspection before closing on a property (sorry, had to go there).

However, there is an element of risk built in to each of those situations. The market tanks and your return is looking to be minimal if anything for the next who-knows-how-long. You take every step to ensure your marriage will last only to have divorce papers delivered to your door ten years later. You get an inspection, but the inspector missed a pertinent detail regarding the plumbing, costing you an additional tens of thousands to rip out the entire system and replace it.

Unexpected or seemingly unwarranted circumstances used to drive me nuts. I work hard as an athlete in high school only to spend my first season of college cross country on the bench. I move out to Seattle to live my best life and find my dream job, only to move home 1.5 years later. The list goes on, and we all have a list. Sometimes that list becomes overwhelming and shapes future risk-taking. You want to start that business, but the last time you tried, it didn’t work out. You qualify and want to buy that house, but what if the closing costs are more than anticipated?

We eventually get worn out or gun shy or both and become cynical. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on how skepticism and cynicism are different and the weight of possible disappointment in my life trajectory. Does the “what-if” make me less willing to put myself out there? It’s safer to stay put. It’s safer to not say the thing, do the thing, or take any actual action steps toward that dream.

The truth about risks is that there will always be a worst case scenario; that’s why they are risks. The journey will have ups and downs but the result could be something life-changingly beautiful. I can say with confidence that I regret the things I didn’t try and conversations I didn’t have more than the ones that put me in a position to receive a less than desirable outcome. After all, failure depends on your perception of it to hold meaning.

So, tell that person you love them. Teach the class. Make the investment. Start the business. Write the book. At the end of the day, what matters is that you give your family, your world and the world beyond you what only you can offer, which is usually much more than you think.