Ten Years Ago – Taking The Risk
I’m doing it.
Ten years ago today I woke up saying these words aloud to myself. I had been planning, dreaming, and debating almost daily for months. But that morning, I was calm, clear and ready. I was signing the lease on a commercial space that would become my new business, Thought Design. I was dropping down all of my savings to buy furniture, redesign the space and hire people to help me launch this crazy idea!
Every year this day marks me with amazement, deep gratitude, and a bit of surprise. It all feels big to me still, this decision. As big as it feels to me now, at the time it was enormous. It felt like the biggest decision I had ever made.
I have to believe that throwing down all of your savings to start a new business is a pretty significant move for most people, and for me it most certainly was. In retrospect, though, it’s not actually the biggest or boldest risk I’ve ever taken. I also have four children!
I was reflecting on all of this the other day. It had occurred to me that perhaps the reason that starting Thought Design felt so significant is that, unlike the decisions to have children, I didn’t have a roadmap from other people who had done it. In fact, I knew no one that had started the kind of business like this (I still don’t!). When I tried to explain the business model that had unfolded in my mind to others, they usually looked at me like “What?!”. Somehow, the novelty of the decision itself made the riskiness of my decision feel amplified. I just couldn’t assure myself with any measure of certainty that I was doing the “right” thing. In fact, when we opened, I put a little card on the wall by my desk with a quote from Alice in Wonderland:
Alice: “Have I gone mad?”
The Mad Hatter: “I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”
This has all gotten me thinking about how people make decisions and take risks. Our brains are hardwired to love certainty and crave predictability. When we calculate risks and decision making, we take stock of what we are certain about. What we can predict is a big part of the process, whether we’re aware of it or not. It seems as though our brains sometimes trick us into thinking some risks are more acceptable than others. It’s easier to say yes to a risk if it is something that we have observed others going through, like having children, moving, or taking a new job. Perhaps this is why many (or maybe most) of us live relatively consistent lives. Our brains are wired to interpret change as loss, and if unfamiliar risks feel more significant than familiar ones, it’s a wonder we ever make big, bold moves in life at all.
I wouldn’t trade the last ten years for anything. I have learned so much, made a lot of mistakes, met an uncountable number of interesting, amazing people and grown into the person that I am today. It has been an incredibly rich return on my investment. And now I ask myself – what’s the next big risk life is going to invite me to take? Will I say yes to that one too?
What are the risks that you’ve taken (or not taken) that felt really “big”?
How do you want to navigate the invitations that are going to come your way?
What new, unfamiliar things do you want to try or do?
Just a little food for thought.