Snakes are not my best buddies. Ever since childhood I have had a deep-seated fear & loathing of the things.
But whilst avoidance might keep me feeling safe, a lack of desire to do anything only serves to maintain an unimpressive level of serpent ignorance. Progress requires me to get acquainted with risk…
Hitchhiking is another risk-based activity that is cloaked in urban myth and mystery. The true reality of roadside risks and related perils are a fair distance from media headlines as this Freakonomics podcast seeks to demonstrate.
Unfortunately, some tabloids would have us believe that mortal danger lurks around every motorway junction. And drivers and would-be hitchhikers respond accordingly. As a result of media messages (combined with government legislation) people in the UK have grown up in a more risk-averse culture which naturally inclines us to avoid risk altogether. To make the point about our culture, Cambridge academic, Dr Peter Lawrence made the headlines in 2014 when he was hospitalised after tripping over a fallen so called ‘safety sign’.
Critically, mass avoidance of risk is an economic time-bomb. If people at a younger age avoid (rather than get acquainted with risk through complementary activities) they are less well prepared for life, never mind start and sustain their own business.
Learning how to manage risk well necessarily means being exposed to new situations and dealing with difficult and even dangerous issues. Good outdoor education, for example, is an excellent environment for people to learn and discover new talents, confront weaknesses and ultimately build self-confidence. As a result, barriers in our minds are overcome and our lives are thus more fulfilling.
Author Pema Chodron wrote about why we should get acquainted with risk in her famous book ‘When things fall apart’. She says that rather than running away from situations we don’t like, we should always ‘stay a while’ and get used to our new surroundings.
Being able to immerse ourselves in difficult situations, writes Chodron, allows us to adapt and ultimately deal with unsettling issues. Time spent here provides us with a new and appropriate perspective as well as an understanding of the actual risk being experienced.
As the infographic highlights, courtesy of Funders & Founders, entrepreneurs need to have the ability to stick at what they are doing, especially when the going gets tough. Fleeing from a difficult situation is no way to solve a problem.
By being prepared to handle risk and uncertainty in our younger years, we develop the necessary skill-set to take on bigger challenges later. We become more confident and resilient and ultimately move to higher levels of achievement. Enterprise and entrepreneurship educators have a key role to play here, but the teaching of such messages should not be left just to their classes. For more on this, read about Frank Dawson and why torches were never needed for his dark, night-time woodland walks.
So if you like the idea of starting a business but don’t like the related uncertainties, practice with some small risks and build confidence from there. Meanwhile, I’m off to the local zoo to volunteer to help in the reptile house…
Key Learning Points: Get acquainted with risk. Our ability to manage risk almost defines what we are capable of achieving. Extending ourselves equips us with new skills and develops mental strength; two key attributes of people who create and grow businesses.