Thursday, September 8, 2016

To Risk Or Not To Risk That Is the Question

I love my job but sometimes my passion for it is diminished. The sense of security I feel as a result of working there for almost twenty five years is not really justified. I could be fired at any moment for any reason. My union contract includes a very good severance package but the prospect of losing this job does scare me, so I probably take fewer risks. I am good at what I do and it is unlikely I would ever be fired, but I still refrain from speaking up, sometimes, and I don't often take risks with new ideas or unconventional ways of doing things.

I'm currently reading the Steve Jobs book and I am amazed and intrigued by the idea that a visionary asshole could become such a success. To use his own words, he made a 'dent in the universe'. He was a visionary who had a huge impact on computers, movie animation and business by combining technology and art. He lived life on his terms. He was simultaneously supportive and a jerk, hot and cold; a man who rejected material things in a Buddhist way yet was one of the wealthiest men on the planet and spent a fortune on many things.

In many ways, I have lived my life on my own terms. So far. There is nothing in my childhood, other than curiosity and dreaming, that would have led people to believe I'd make a career in media, much of it in the public eye; or more accurately, in the public 'ear'. I took risks in accepting some of the jobs I've had, was a visionary at times, creating a type of job that didn't really exist at the time, expressed ideas out loud, some good, some bad, some crazy but eventually the norm. For many years, I had a knack for seeing the future, predicting trends and placing myself in the right place and time to take personal advantage of those trends. Several of those jobs involved relocating to cities halfway across the country where I knew almost nobody, but I accepted those jobs fearlessly.

Now the thought of taking those kind of risks scare the shit out of me. I do go against the norm sometimes and more often than not I make the right choices. But I often second guess myself before taking action. I want to predict the future again and place myself in the middle of it. I can see an end to my job five or six years in the future but every other possibility after that involves risks that I am afraid to take.

Role models for boomers, specifically our parents, often worked the same safe careers their whole lives and rarely changed jobs or cities. My dad did the same basic work for almost fifty years and only changed jobs twice during that time. Except for two years in the Navy, he lived and worked his entire life inside the city limits of New Orleans. During one year, just a few years before he retired from his third job, I had three different jobs in three different cities, two of them a thousand miles apart. Good?  Bad?  Doesn't matter?  He was happy with his life, I'm happy with mine. Maybe the main thing I learned from him is to do what you enjoy.

'Risk' is not a bad four-letter word. Neither is 'safe'.  Taking a risk could set you up for a failure, but that f-word could also represent the learning opportunity that leads to a success. Playing it safe could also lead to continued success.

To risk or not to risk is an unanswered question. Fortunately there is little parallel between my contemplation and that of the Hamlet character my question is referencing.

Visualization and balance have been guiding principles my whole life. At the very least, talking this through in this blog post has reminded me of that. My next immediate step should be to visualize the possible futures I want and balance the potential risks with the potential rewards.

Stay tuned. And thanks for visiting.


No comments: