I recently heard a prominent business person asked about the most important thing they learnt at university. Their answer: “Profit = reward for risk.”
Achieving anything significant always requires hard work and taking chances. And because risks are, well, risky, it is inevitable that you will fall on your face along the way.
If you go skiing and never fall over, then you’re simply not trying hard enough. It’s easy to cruise safely down the slopes, but if you want to push the limits you need to put down the hot chocolate.
While we understand that risk and failure are essential for success, we still fear them. This idea is nothing new. The Harvard Business Review recently published an entire Failure Issue exploring this very topic. To paraphrase from one article:
“Failure. We’re hypocrites about it. Go online, and you’ll find dozens of pleasant clichés celebrating the inevitability of failure and the importance of learning from it. But in real life – and in real companies – failure is loathed. We’re afraid of it. We avoid it. We penalise it.”
To continue the corny sporting theme, I’ll hand over to superstar basketballer Michael Jordan:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
If you’re not achieving the success you want, chances are you’re not failing enough. Mathematically, as long as you’re taking calculated risks, the more shots you take the more points you’ll score.
While it can be hard to see at the time, lessons learned the hard way are the most valuable.
What are your thoughts on risk and the fear of failure? Any epic fails you’d like to share? Here’s to failure, risk AND return!