On Taking Risks

Posted on by Brian Hertzog

Writing this is a risk because I don't know if you'll like it. I'm not even sure you'll care enough to form an opinion. But guess what? I'm writing anyways! Ever stop yourself from doing something because you don't believe the reward is worth the risk? If you do, you're a practicing investor, evaluating the risk/reward ratio.

Here's what I've realized. For the most part, people play it way too safe. It's not necessarily a bad thing, hedging means you're not losing. It means flying under the radar. But putting markets aside, what about life? Is it worth it to minimize risk?

When investors pick companies they evaluate upside and potential loss. If the upside far exceeds the cost of losing everything, it should make for a compelling investment. What are the upsides to living a "low key" lifestyle? You won't get bothered by crazy strangers, you won't have your face in the news, and you won't have to worry about censoring everything you say, you can just be you. For most people, that's exactly what they want. But if you want more, if you want a "jet setter" all-star lifestyle, playing it safe will get you nowhere fast.

People have a biological preference to go unnoticed. It's the fear of being ostracized that fuels stage fright. Marketers refer to this as "lizard brain". But if you want the huge upside, you have to be willing to fly in the face of this fear. You have to be okay with risk.

I love starting projects with, "this might not work". It immediately relieves the pressure of failing. And, it allows you to operate at your most creative potential. As soon as you start worrying about the downside, you've already lost.

So ask yourself, "what risks am I taking"? Are you putting yourself out there or are you playing it safe? My guess is that most of us (myself included) would respond that life has been relatively "safe". You're probably not on stage in front of thousands of people. You're probably not a YouTube star. You're just living comfortably. Nothing wrong here, but you must realize that unless you do something drastically different, you can expect consistent results.

It's like the difference between mutual funds and individual stocks. In a mutual fund, your money's diversified, minimizing significant loss. When you invest in individual companies, one day you could be a millionaire, the next you could be worth nothing. C'est la vie.

The point is, you have decide the kind of life do you want to live. Are you happy with modest returns or do you secretly lust for more? Lately, I've been in the second camp. Life's too short.