Somehow “deadly predator” doesn’t come to mind here…he kind of reminds me of myself on ice here though
Like a lot of people, I have been known to get held back from doing very exciting and worthwhile things by the thought that something might go wrong and horribly so.
If that’s happening to you, then you might be having thoughts along the lines of “I would love to sign up for one of those fundraising hikes up Kilimanjaro for charity,it would be so exciting and for a brilliant cause…but i might not be able to get the funding and I’d have let everybody down, I’d be very disappointed and it would be awful” or “You know, I would really love to write a book, that would be a real achievement, but it could be completely awful, people could really lay into me about how lame it is and that would be so disheartening” or “I would love to (insert great idea here), it would give me (insert amazing benefit here) but (insert worst possible case scenario here) could happen and that would make me feel (insert horrifically awful emotion here)”
You end up thinking that your fantastically exciting idea is just too damned risky…so you don’t do anything about it. Instead you stay where you are, doing what you’re doing because it feels very nice and safe when compared to that horrible risk you just dreamed up. Problem is that doing nothing about your exciting idea, as well as feeling safe and cosy, is also just not as exciting, in fact it’s very dull indeed in comparison to the hoped for goal at the end of your exciting idea.
I don’t want to go on too much about my working life, but in my job as a Project Manager I spend HUGE amounts of time thinking about risks. And I’ve got to tell you that if you’re not ever doing greatly beneficial things because there are small chances (or even slightly larger chances) that something bad could happen, then you are doing it wrong.
Yup, ‘fraid so.
There is a lot more to dealing with risks than just avoiding them at all costs.
You cannot look just look at risks in isolation. Not if you’re ever going to get anywhere good.
At work I have lots of templates and measures and guidelines and whatnot for quantifying and dealing with risk. And in a working environment I’m sure that they’re all very valuable but what I really think might be useful in a more personal context is a good bit of thinking around the following considerations (and I think it would be a good exercise to write down the big idea and your big scary risk then read through adding your thoughts as you go) I shall help by providing a hugely practical and highly likely real life example…deciding to walk to the North Pole against the risk that I could be eaten by a polar bear:
How much do you really really WANT your idea to happen?
You need to know how much you want something and how great you think it would be if it worked out in order to know what you’re prepared to put yourself through to get there. And the stuff that you’re prepared to put yourself through might include the possibility that it might go wrong somewhere along the way.
For example, on a passing whim I might think it would be really nice to go on a trek to the North Pole, but when I think about it…..while I’m sure there would be a great sense of achievement about it am I prepared to put myself through the cold and physical exertion and risk of being eaten by a polar bear to get that sense of achievement? No, I do not want that sense of achievement quite that much, to me it is not worth it.
Other people may crave that sense of achievement and also really enjoy physical activity, they might happily accept that there is a remote chance that they will be eaten by a polar bear at some point during their expedition…good luck to them with that!
You need to work out just how much our great idea means to you, what is it worth?
If it’s worth a lot, you really want the big idea to become a reality, but the big old risk is still looming read on.
How awful would it be if you went for your idea and your worst case scenario actually happened?
You know how much you want your big idea to actually become a reality, great start, but you’ve still got that awful “I could be eaten by a polar bear” doubt nagging at the back of your mind. You need to think about how much you want to avoid your risk actually occurring. How much do you want to avoid it?
Weigh it up against how much you wanted your big idea to happen. Set them off against each other.
Now, even the most intrepid adventurer will, I’m sure, be pretty keen on not being eaten by a polar bear. If there were only two outcomes of setting out on your trek and there was an equal possibility of each and they were:
Outcome 1: safe arrival at, and return from the North Pole
Outcome 2: donating one’s body to the worthy cause of polar bear nourishment
then most of us (even the ones who were very keen on the North Pole trek and didn’t mind the cold too much) would almost certainly stay tucked up at home in our onesies, far away from white pointy toothed creatures.
However, although you may have blown the big scary risk up in your mind, it might not be as likely as it feels. Which is why it’s really important to ask yourself, with your rational-non-panicky-head on…
How realistic is it (really, really) that our big old risk would actually happen?
Of all the things that can happen on your trek to the North Pole, how likely is it that you will be eaten by a polar bear? How many people that go to the North Pole even SEE a polar bear? (NO, I don’t actually know, this is one of the things that you should think about if your big idea is to go to the North Pole and your biggest fear is polar bears). They’re endangered you know, I don’t think they’re frolicking around the arctic in their thousands.
Still don’t like those odds?
Anything (apart from completely dropping your idea) that you could do to make that risk a bit less likely or a bit less awful if it did occur?
You might find that given a bit of thinking your risk was knocked down to size a bit by the last question and is starting to look a bit more manageable. But there’s still no reason why you should get eaten by a polar bear on your trip when it could be easily avoided.
Just plain not going isn’t your only option, you could consider take a few precautions to knock that risk down a bit more.
You could (and I hope you would) take an experienced guide…
…with a gun suitable for shooting polar bears if required…
…and someone you don’t like much to use as a snack for the polar bear (ok, maybe not)
Once you start thinking of what could be done to reduce the risk, you might find that when weighed up against how much you want want want the desired outcome it becomes a bit more acceptable to you.
You could find that you can almost eliminate the possibility that your risk would actually happen.
What’s the risk of doing nothing here?
If you do nothing about getting your big idea into motion the risk is that you will not obtain the outcome of your big idea. It’s a big risk.
If you go for your big and marvellous idea, there is a risk that it will not go well and that you will not get whatever it is that you wanted out of it.
If you do not go for your big and marvellous idea, the risk that it will not go well and that you will not gt whatever it is that you wanted out of it almost becomes an absolute certainty.
If you take no risks and therefore no moves to whatever it is your little heart desires, you will almost certainly stay put where you are…or worse, find that you have your decisions made for you as you’ve not taken control.
You could find that not only are you not heading towards the North Pole, that the opportunity to do so in the future is also somehow lost to you, or you could just plain old find that in a few years time you’re exactly where you are now, bored and wondering what the North Pole is really like…and whether polar bears might be a bit friendlier than the nature programs would have you believe.
What about the positive risk?
You heard me! Risks are not just big horrible negative things. In fact PRINCE2 (a project management framework which covers risk, and is used by projects in big and small companies everywhere) says that a risk is:
“an event that has yet to happen, it may or may not happen at some point in the future, but if it does it will have an impact on my project”
So, as well as a risk of your big idea going wrong you should also consider that there is also a risk it could go wonderfully right and go just perfectly and all the great things it could mean for you.
You could get to the North Pole, having seen polar bears from a safe distance and it having been a wonderful moment to remember forever.
All I’m trying to say here I think (and I have taken a lot of words to say it…well done for reading this far) is do not be put off by your initial reaction to your big scary risks. If you take the time to inspect them you could find that they’re not as big, or as likely as they first feel and that you can do things to make them easier to handle. You might just find that for the right outcome, the right dream, the risk (if well managed – don’t get too close to the polar bears now) is totally worth it.