I am sitting at my desk staring at the computer and this large, daunting expanse of white confronting me as I try to create a course submission outline for a large automotive industry event in Florida, mid-March, and one of the two presentations I’ll be delivering there. The subject is “Growing Your Business By Taking Risk” and as of this moment my canvas is devoid of anything witty, clever or worthwhile.
This is one of those assignments likely to make your blood run cold: one of those, “In just a few words, please describe…” which leaves you wondering whether any of the many words at your disposal is adequate to the task at hand.
This isn’t an issue of whether or not I can capture the essence of a ninety-minute presentation on the subject of risk – that isn’t an option. It’s a matter of how well I’ll be able to do it… and, whether or not I will do both the subject and my presentation justice. You see this idea of growing anything by taking risk is kind of a non sequitur as there is risk associated with everything we do. Risk is unavoidable.
I think the problem is a profound lack of understanding regarding the concept itself combined with a failure to recognize what the opposite or absence of risk is really all about.
There are people who believe with a perfect faith that the opposite of love is hate: the substitution of loathing for endearment. Finding and substituting one powerful emotion for another, however different they might be is not the same thing as recognizing its opposite. I would suggest that the opposite of love is not hate… it is, in fact, indifference: the absence of emotion.
If this makes any sense at all, you might find yourself wondering about risk and what its opposite might be, especially since it’s unlikely we can accomplish anything at all without at least some degree of risk associated with it. Is, then, the opposite of risk, safety? Is it security? Or, is it stasis and stagnation: a slow, agonizing death by erosion or evaporation?
I’m a small business owner. I wake up every morning knowing that I will be confronted with thousands – and, that is not an exaggeration – of decisions that will effect not only me, but the people who work with me, the customers and clients I serve as well as the entire universe of vendors and other small businesses I in turn support. Every decision brings with it an entire galaxy of possibilities: a world immersed in “If this: Then that.” Every decision no matter how seemingly insignificant has a consequence: its own consequences, and the potential of its own reward.
If I recommend one outside service provider over another I have to understand that my credibility is inexorably tied to their ability to meet or exceed my client’s wants, needs and expectations.
If I choose one potential service over another: one repair path over another, I must be prepared to accept the consequences of its ability to create a lasting and positive solution to my client’s problem.
If I institute a new policy or process at work, I have to realize there is an opportunity cost associated with that decision: that whatever we do will be at the expense of all the other things that we could or might do or have done. Every dollar I spend is spent at the expense of some other initiative, equipment purchase or training opportunity; and, the choice to do nothing – the realization that inaction is, in fact, an action in and of itself – brings with it the most potentially dangerous risk of all: the risk of paralysis, the risk of becoming irrelevant.
Even as I sit here right now, I have to realize that even this exercise bears risks of its own.
After all, I could have gone to the gym this morning and left this for later and later could arrive without the opportunity to finish leaving me to live with the stress that would certainly flow out of that decision.
I could have gone to the shop to finish the paperwork I wasn’t able to finish last night, paperwork that will need to be completed by Monday morning.
I can finish up now so I can accompany my wife and join our daughter as she is fitted for her wedding gown – something I will most certainly choose to do.
Because, the risk associated with disappointing two of the most important women in my life is real and the reward for sharing a moment like that just too great…