In today’s mega-technological super-convenience society, we’ve all but lost sight of one particular fact: Life is a risk. We’ve built walls, dams, and roofs to keep it out. We’ve armed ourselves with the latest inoculations to keep risk from making us sick. We’ve mounted the latest weaponry to safeguard us from our enemies. We’ve insured ourselves as many ways as possible so that risk doesn’t lose us money.
But despite all of these safeguards, underneath it all life is still a risk. And while we seem to have become totally averse to risk, we’re forgetting one very important fact: taking risks is how we ever built anything, to begin with. It’s how any territory was made habitable. It’s how any business (no matter how sound and to secure it might have appeared later) got started. It’s how any new life is begun.
Not Happening Today
Very little risk-taking is undertaken today. The average person works a regular job, at the most secure company possible. The tradeoff, in their minds, of a relatively modest income, is job security. They’re not going to venture out into something new and untried.
Not that they’ve really been encouraged to do so. Most people grow up being told that they have to “settle down” and “find security.” It’s only in the last few years that any kind of culture has grown up around becoming an entrepreneur, and that it has in any way been encouraged.
But even with this encouragement, we still have a long way to go. Financing for any sort of new venture is hard to get. While banks offer new business loans, they’re tough to obtain and won’t, in most cases, actually be enough to sustain a business long enough to get it off the ground. Other investment capital, such as that from private investors, comes at a steep price—usually majority ownership of the new company.
No, banks and investors certainly aren’t taking any kind of risks, either—despite the fact that they never would have gotten where they are today without risk.
The Risk-Taking Personality
What kind of personality is it that can (often successfully) take risks? That would, of course, be the entrepreneur. It’s the one type of individual that can lead and get anything built. For any great innovation or forward measure in a society, you’ll find some kind of entrepreneur behind it.
While entrepreneurs are willing to take risks, they’re not usually willing to take stupid risks, like jumping off a 500-foot cliff just to see what happens. The risks entrepreneurs are taking are, to one degree or another, calculated, and have taken into account the potential success as well as potential failure. Many (sometimes all) of the resources an entrepreneur is venturing are their own.
Another aspect to the type of risk an entrepreneur takes is its purpose. The purpose of a new entrepreneurial venture is normally to bring some sort of benefit to a customer or user—not just to make a profit.
Interestingly, salespeople used to be some of the biggest risk-takers in the world. They’d be the first ones to be self-reliant, and strike out and try something new.
In the majority of cases, this is no longer true. Companies are constantly searching for that “perfect lead” they can serve up to their salespeople on a silver platter. While there’s certainly still some risk to being a salesperson, it’s nowhere near what it once was.
Why might this lack of risk on a salesperson’s part be a bad thing? What should we do about it?
Stay tuned for my next blog post in this series and find out!
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