“You can’t outwit fate by standing on the sidelines placing little side bets about the outcome of life. Either you wade in and risk everything you have to play the game or you don’t play at all. And if you don’t play, you can’t win.”
Judith McNaught (Author of Someone Like You)
“No doubt, emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.”
Jack Welsh (Former Chairman and CEO of General Electric)
“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”
Albert Einstein (Nobel Laureate in Theoretical Physics)
I emptied my bank account and sent a $1,600 check to the magazine editor.
It was all the money I had left.
I had just spent the last six months interviewing sports athletes for a product I was going to release online.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The $1,600 was for a full-page product advertisement in a sports magazine.
I had no idea what I was doing.
Seriously—I was clueless.
I’d read a few outdated books on starting a business and creating an online product but that was about it.
I thought making something that other people wanted was going to be easy.
If I liked it, then other people would like it too, right?
This personal project was a big risk for me.
All of my resources were tapped out.
I didn’t have a backup plan.
I was just following my dream of being my own boss.
Once the product was finally ready, I uploaded it to a few vendor sites, clicked the finish button, and waited for people to start downloading it.
This was my moment.
I was going to be a megastar.
I waited and waited but nothing happened.
I woke up the next morning and checked my computer again.
Not a single person had downloaded the product.
To this day only five people have ever bought it.
I failed massively and had to take a second night job working as a janitor to get back on my feet.
I failed, but I learned a lot.
A few years later, and hundreds of mistakes later, I finally started a successful business.
The $1,600 risk and 6-month time investment didn’t seem worth it at the time, but it was.
None of my future successes—publishing a best-selling book, speaking in 30 different countries, or managing a million-dollar product line—would have been possible without falling flat on my face first.
Still, I find it very hard to take big risks.
You’d think taking risks would get easier over time.
But it doesn’t. Why?
How Possibilities Lower Your Risk Tolerance
You’ve heard that the most exciting part of achieving your goal is the journey before the win.
In the same way, the most dreadful part of missing out on a goal is the journey before the loss.
Dealing with a definite situation is not difficult.
You can overcome anything once you know what you’re dealing with.
Every day, people are fired from their jobs only to discover a whole new world of opportunities in front of them.
After months and months of anxiety, these people lose the things they’ve been so afraid of losing.
But the loss itself gives them a foothold to take action from.
Now they can finally move forward, whether it’s by starting an entrepreneurial project, going back to school, or living like there’s no tomorrow.
The endpoint is what allows them to feel happy and confident again.
It’s the process of losing, the lack of control before the endpoint, that hurts.
Too many people completely freeze up during this period of uncertainty. They become tense and stop taking risks.
By trying to control the wrong parts of the situation, they spin out of control.
As a result, they become victims of circumstance, missing out on chances to correct their course.
The quickest way to lose control is to try to control everything.
If you want to achieve goals quickly, you’re going to have to put yourself in uncontrolled environments.
You’re going to have to get uncomfortable.
In practical terms, this means being willing to speak up at work, be more disciplined at home, tell a negative friend goodbye, or spend your nights and weekends working on a personal project.
The key is learning how to think and act clearly in these uncertain environments.
Why Playing It Safe Is Irrational
Risk intolerance is a double-edged sword that drives people to play it safe.
Risk intolerance is what makes you unnecessarily conserve your efforts until the last moment, and it’s what makes you freeze up during that last moment.
This intolerance is something that negatively affects everyone in every field, from business, to sports, to personal lives.
Consider this example from professional golfing…
In golf, “par” is the number of strokes a first-class player should normally require for a particular hole, a “birdie” is playing a hole with a score of one stroke under par (good), and a “bogey” is playing a hole with a score of one stroke over par (bad).
A recent study reported in American Economic Review by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania showed that even the world’s best pro golfers are so consumed with avoiding bogeys that they make putts for birdie less often than identical-length putts for par.
In other words, pro golfers play it safe when they have two strokes to make par versus when they have only one stroke.
The study analyzed precise data on more than 1.6 million Pro Golf Tour putts, finding that this preference for avoiding a negative (bogey) over gaining a positive (birdie) costs the average pro golfer one stroke per tournament.
This doesn’t seem like much until you take into account that the top golfers on the Championship Tour are usually within one or two strokes of each other, and the average purse for the winner is 2 million dollars.
You can’t win big by playing it safe with a low risk tolerance. This is just as true in every part of your life.
3 Ways To Increase Risk Tolerance
The only way to accomplish bigger and better things in life is to become increasingly tolerant of risk.
This is easier said than done.
Risk intolerance is connected to our deep-seated fear of the unknown.
Human beings naturally fear uncertainty.
After all, it’s the unknown that brings us the most pain.
In order to take risks, you need to stop being afraid of this pain.
You need to overcome your fear of losing what you have, including losing other people’s approval.
Letting go of a sure thing is the only way to get something better.
The problem is that too many people are terrified of uncertainty.
They’d rather by unhappy in the life they have for 10 years than be uncertain about their future for 10 minutes.
Uncertainty can be paralyzing.
The period between not knowing and knowing an outcome is what keeps people from achieving their goals.
Refusing to let go of the things you value most can hold you back.
The only way to achieve your biggest goals in life is to get uncomfortable.
You have to take new action. You have to be willing to experience something you’ve never experienced before.
Without stepping into the unknown, nothing great would have ever been accomplished.
Uncertainty precedes all achievement.
This includes standing up for yourself at work, starting your own business, or refusing to let people at home walk all over you.
The best things in life involve risk.
You have to learn to tolerate it. Here are 3 techniques for how you can start taking bigger risks in life that pay off…
1. Get comfortable with uncertainty.
Fear of the unknown is something you have to push against every single day.
Otherwise, this fear will slowly settle you into a nice comfortable box.
You’ll coast from one low-level position in life to the next, pretending to give everything but secretly holding back.
The worst part is, you’ll never really know what you have inside of you. You will never really know where you stand.
It’s you versus life.
The only way to win is to not be afraid of losing.
Once you stop letting go and reaching for more, life takes over.
Life will put you in a corner and keep you there if you let it.
The time to fight mediocrity and a middle-age compromise is right now.
Stop reserving your energy for some imaginary moment.
Now is the time to step up and ask for a raise. Now is the time to build up your network and start your own project.
Now is the time to stop blindly agreeing with other people and start commanding respect.
Quit waiting for a guarantee.
Risks and guarantees are mutually exclusive.
They can’t occur at the same time.
Learn to give without a guarantee.
2. Control the right things.
The illusion of control is a psychological effect where the more control a person has over a procedure, the more control he thinks he has over an uncontrollable outcome.
Experiments presented in the American Journal Of Sociology found that when rolling dice in a craps game at a casino, people throw harder when they need high numbers and softer when they need low numbers.
The average person believes that manipulating his craps procedure, or how hard he throws the dice, will get him the numbers he wants.
Think of your colleague at work who obsessively guards the office thermostat, or the micro-manager boss who wants to see every slide of every PowerPoint presentation, or the relationship partner who wants the carpets vacuumed in exactly the right way so the vacuum lines are perfectly parallel.
Associating a specific procedure or skill to an uncertain situation can be empowering.
This is why so many people become obsessed with being busy.
They’re unsure about their lives and have no control over their personal progress so they obsess over some tiny issue to the point of madness.
These people occupy themselves with meaningless busywork instead of tackling real problems.
Look—many situations may be outside of your control. But this doesn’t mean that you avoid these situations.
It means you recognize which parts of each situation are controllable and which are not, and then stay within your circle of influence.
3. Choose your emotions.
Achieving your career goals requires calculated risk, not recklessness.
It’s not enough to take a risk, you have be intelligent to take the right risk.
There’s absolutely no value in taking uncalculated risks.
Failing to act with foresight is lazy, sloppy, and self-defeating.
Yet, most people throw foresight and calculation out the window once their emotions get involved.
Fear and frustration are the two emotions most responsible for sabotaging clarity during uncertain situations.
Fear keeps you from taking the right kinds of risks. Frustration makes you take the wrong kinds of risks.
Studies out of the University of California show that fearful people make pessimistic judgments of future events and are less likely to take risks.
The more vivid and immediate the potential negative outcome, the more they will try to avoid the risk.
Learn to decide which emotions to express and when to express them.
Rather than letting fear keep you from taking rational risks, use fear to keep you from taking irrational risks.
Instead of letting your frustration make reckless decisions for you, use frustration to power you through logical decisions.
The only way to do this is to be present during the actual decision process.
When deciding whether or not to take a risk, identify everything the risk could bring you.
Then, compare these prizes with what you currently have.
Do NOT compare the prizes to what else you could have in the future.
This is called counterfactual thinking.
Counterfactual thinking occurs when decision-makers compare a possible result of a decision against what could have happened, rather than to their current state.
For any risky situation, the best strategy is to compare what you could gain to what you have now.
This kind of emotional intelligence will give you the clarity you need to identify the right risk and the courage you need to face the uncertainty that follows.
Instead of focusing on what you could lose, you’ll focus on what you could gain, which will increase your risk tolerance and help take logical, calculated risks. The key is to start being more comfortable with uncertainty and to learn to control the right things. By choosing your emotions and choosing to be emotionally intelligent overall, you’ll take on the right challenges at the right time. Do this and you’ll live a more confident and focused life.
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