Why I Broke Up with Wisdom to go out with Risk
As 20-somethings, we are too focused on the mechanics of success rather than the principles. With that in mind, the relationship between risk-taking and success is often glorified but lacks a "rubber meets the road" explanation necessary for young people to implement in a variety of contexts. Pursuit of success will in one way or another present financial risks, relational risks, and the risk of having an existential crisis. Following the principles allows you to define the next step tasks for yourself which requires a higher level of time and energy; that's why we default to just asking for the tasks to be laid out for us. Understanding the risks will help you understand why the tasks can't be defined up front and will always look different.
Pursuit of success will in one way or another be a financial risk. 20-somethings believe this at a cognitive level, it doesn't take convincing. The proof of this understanding is how we glorify it in the media. "How To Make it in America" on HBO and "Shark Tank" on ABC provide a fictional and reality example that we love to watch. What does it look like to actually live out the understanding of this fact we know to be true in our head. I'm by no means an expert, however in my first 13 months out of college, I was able to:
- Leave my corporate cubicle job
- Fund raise and produce an independent film that went on to achieve profitable distribution
- Manage the campaign office and digital strategy of a several hundred thousand dollar political campaign
- Become fully self-employed for two months and sell at least $10,000 in online inventory
I don't write this list in an attempt to glorify myself, but however to attempt to deconstruct and explain the financial risks associated with each item and how I made my decisions. Conventional wisdom says that I should have stayed at the original desk job and paid my dues. Which makes sense, conventional wisdom (and our parents) want us to take the safe and stable route.
Moving on to steps 2, 3, and 4 of my journey required that I budget meticulously (I use Quicken) and not increase my monthly spending while I was in the corporate safe world. The value I was giving up by turning down a safe salary was being returned to me in the upside of potential for each opportunity.
This explains why financial risk is scary at first but turns out not to be an unjustifiable risk at all but rather a necessity in order to gain the upside momentum that 20-somethings crave.
Pursuit of success will come with relational risks.
What does this mean? It means achieving something new and different will require you to act new and different. This change could result and often does in those around you either embracing or not embracing the new and improved you.
An easy analogy for this is getting your haircut. Some of it gets left on the floor. That doesn't mean it didn't look good for a time, but some hair had to go so that the hair left behind could look its best. Cleaning out your closet is another example, the clothes that made you look bomb and pull in middle school don't cut it anymore. You have to upgrade.
A great book that talks more about this concept is Necessary Endings.
Moving on to new relationships and giving up toxic ones that are not moving you towards your goals does not discount the role those individuals played in your life. It simply makes space for growth to occur.
Risk of an Existential Crisis
Pursuit of success will include the risk of suffering an existential crisis.
We just talked about how achieving success will require you to act new and different and the value in having relationships where others understand the change. Well, the most important relationship to work on next, is the one you have with yourself.
Without even trying, we all by default, have ideas about who we are and what we will amount too. When good things happen to you, do you believe it was luck or hard work and could you do it again? When bad things happen to you, how often is it because of a flaw you see in yourself?
These are good questions. They matter. It sounds cheesy but pursuing success starts in your head.
Something I try that helps me get outside my own head is when I go somewhere that I've never been before with people that I'm meeting for the first time, I wear something completely random. A new outfit that I've never combined before. Then try introducing yourself with your passion first instead of your day job, whatever it is.
Just like we redefined our relationship with money and our relationships with others while in pursuit of success, we need to redefine our relationship with ourselves.
I talk about the benefits of going to new places in To Starbucks or Not to Starbucks
Simply focusing on the mechanics of success does not lead to breakthroughs because we're not yet in a place to carry them out correctly before focusing on the principles and our relationship to risk. Stripping away of the fantasy's about risk-taking and instead looking at practical examples of the change that it will create in your life will make it easier to implement and therefore achieve success.
The real risk by not putting your finances on the line and listening to conventional wisdom is that you won't achieve your goal. Not everybody who played a part in your journey up to this point will play a part in your journey in the future if you continue on your path to success. With a full and clear understanding of what it takes to achieve your goal, you will not be the same person as you were before you had that level of understanding.
By changing your relationship to risk and gaining a clear understanding, it becomes a necessity to positive change rather than a scary hindrance.
It's been said in many essays that change is hard, I feel it more precise to say that clarifying the reason for change is harder and because of that more necessary.