Why “No Risk, No Reward” Is Terrible Advice

Erica has finally got up the nerve to start the business she’s been thinking about for a few years. She’s not really sure what she’s doing, but she’s heard that you have to be confident and make bold moves as an entrepreneur. So with no sales or customers yet, she’s signed up for a 1 year lease on a storefront space anyway. Fingers crossed!

Seth has just finished grad school and is looking for his first job. He has high expectations for himself and is aiming high. He’s already received a couple offers. One from a solid, reputable company in his current city and one from a flashy name company in a city across the country. He’s not sure if he’s a good fit for the flashy name place, has some doubts about whether he’ll be able to do the job well, and doesn’t really want to move so far from friends and family. But it’s hard to say no to the brand cache it would bring to his resume and he really wants to be “successful”. If it works out it could be really great for his career. So, he’s packing his bags. Fingers crossed!

You’ve heard it a million times in different ways - “no risk, no reward”, “put yourself out there,” “get out of your comfort zone”, or my personal fav you gotta “risk it to get the biscuit”.  In the world of career and entrepreneurship advice - there seems to be a pervasive belief that you have to put yourself out there and take big risks if you want a chance of success (I personally don’t believe this is necessarily true, but that’s for another time). So, let’s say you’ve gathered your nerve and taken a leap. But, what happens if it doesn’t work out? Ouch. Can you handle that? Are you prepared for that?

The thing is, most people aren’t. They’re so focused on trying to reach success they don’t see the potential for failure as a real option or they just don’t want to think about it. Some feel they didn't even have a choice - to be successful they HAD to do X. Then when failure/bad stuff happens, and it’s bound to happen sometimes, they’re totally unequipped to deal with the fallout. There’s the real world fallout - financial, relationships etc. but the biggest fallout and what I’ll be focusing on for the rest of this article is often what happens in your mind. The “no risk, no reward” mentality is often a precursor to some major pain and suffering. The internal chatter is often some variation of "I'm so stupid, I'll never be good enough, I'm a failure, I'm worthless, I'll never be successful, I'm not as good as other people, something's wrong with me", etc. and on and on... 

So, what are you supposed to do? Don’t chase your dreams or take risks? No. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m all for that. And I’m all for challenging yourself and growth with new experiences and going after what you want. But, what I often see if people setting themselves up for some serious potential suffering. If you’re looking at a risk, you need to look at the upside and the downside. And you need to be prepared for things to go wrong. Because sometimes, they will.

What does this look like in practise? It means doing some inner work, having a deep and honest conversation with yourself about how you will feel if things aren’t what you hoped. Like, when Erica’s business fails and she’s lost a ton of money or when Seth gets into his new job he gave up so much for and he finds out he was right, it’s not a good fit for him and he hates the work. They have to be mentally prepared to accept the outcome and move forward, not beat themselves up for making the “wrong” decision. Otherwise, what we're really risking is our mental health.  

Ideally, before you make a potentially risky choice you take the time to explore your thoughts and feelings around things not working out the way you hoped. Do you honestly think you can handle it? The good thing is, your thoughts, feelings and what you think you can handle is changeable. Think back to a time when something you do now with ease used to feel super scary. It's all in how you think about it, right? If you change your perspective on things, you might be able to handle a lot more than you think you can right now. If you can get to a place where you’re ok with the outcomes either way, it possibly won’t even feel “risky” anymore. Imagine that for a second. If you could shift a decision that feels scary as hell to one that feels ok (or even good!) you’d be unstoppable! At the very least, you’d be able to reach for the success you want with a lot more confidence.

If you’re considering something that’s feeling risky and want some help sorting it all through and coming to a decision that feels good for you check out my coaching programs. I'd love to help. 

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