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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Risk & Leaping Through Windows

Sunday morning we sat in church with some thoughts on our minds about packing, logistics, and letting go. Reverend Peggy's sermon this morning was on our ability to fly freely, to allow Spirit to guide us to the heights we desire and can achieve. Boiled down to the street, it was about risk management and how we over manage risk that may not be existent but in our minds, or conversely how if we get trapped in risk management we would lead lives of paralysis.

As Peggy said, "Life and risk are inseparable." Getting out of bed in the morning invites risk from the moment we set feet on the floor until we curl them under the covers again that night. As part of my counseling for families purchasing homes I bring up "What if you are hit by a bus?" Crossing the street is a risk. Driving to work is a risk. Eating steak is a risk. Falling in love is a risk. Getting married. Having children. Buying a home. Taking a job. Casting a vote. Risk. Risk. Risk. Life and risk are truly inseparable and some of us are paralyzed by the amount of risk in living and others of us are completely carefree regarding the risks in life.

Risk has many meanings. Risk can be a gamble. Risk can be peril. Risk can be embarrassment. Risk can be hurt or harm, physical or emotional. Essentially risk is the opportunity for a less than intended result for an action or decision. While the intended result is good, a possible result is less than good, and depending on the odds and amount of risk the possible result could be fatal.

Risk is a tool that is used to leverage the general human condition to manage or avoid unnecessary risk that to sell products, ideas, and in many cases the past several years laws. Risk has become attendant to safety. Safety good, risk bad. As a result too many of our laws have become risk management to protect the masses from themselves and risky behavior or possible negative outcomes. Many of the risk management laws are sensible and create a lawful and orderly society, many others however stretch the power of the government into our daily lives and limit our freedoms and liberties. There are those who feel my position (against) legalizing marijuana is such a limitation, there are others who feel it is an appropriate restriction based on risk management. From child seats to disclosures in a real estate transaction, our lives are filled with laws to disclose or mitigate risk from bad decisions or accidents.

But try as we might we cannot legislate against risk. We cannot legislate against accidents nor stupidity. They exist and as a result individuals will end up on the negative side of a risky situation. Because of the existence of accidents, and stupidity, the majority are restricted more and more from taking risks, and have more and more of our freedoms and liberties restricted in the process.

Life and risk are inseparable. But it is the taking of risks that allow us to grow, to succeed and to create better lives for ourselves and our children. Bob Maxson past-president of Cal State Long Beach used to say, "When you pass an open window of opportunity you only have a short time to decide whether to jump through that window before it closes and the opportunity is gone." Not only that, if you do not jump soon enough someone else probably will.

Taking Maxson's windows of opportunity further, in my own experiences I have noticed that when we are open to change, risking our current comfort zones, change occurs. Too often in my twenty plus years of helping families purchase homes have I seen the dramatic amount of change that occurs in their lives when they make the decision to purchase a new home. Buying a home is a risk. It takes most of your savings, it will be the biggest debt of your life and consume the biggest part of your paycheck. You are changing your shelter, a primary need for your and your family.

Once an individual or couple opens to change in their life by purchasing a new home, deciding to accept the risks of homeownership, I have seen the other changes that occur: new and better jobs, engagements and marriages after years of dating, getting pregnant after years of trying.

In our lives we experience periods when we are open to change and windows of opportunity present themselves to us. After a period the windows close and disappear and it can be some time before we are once again open to change. Many people during these periods over-analyze the risks and other make no analysis at all, thus the range of results from those stuck in their jobs, relationships or living conditions that make them unhappy, and those who try wildly and fail due to improper risk consideration.

Success depends on us finding that balance between risk assessment, risk management and trust. Because ultimately trust is the deciding factor in taking a risk or not. Do we trust our information, do we trust whatever partners may be involved, most importantly do we trust ourselves?

As we sat in church on Sunday listening to Peggy talking about mother eagles slowing creating an uncomfortable nest for her eaglets and eventually pushing them off the edge of the nest and making them fly we thought of our girls who we would be sending to Minnesota the next day for two weeks of camp. The comments from other parents have been wide ranging, from "oh, how can you be away from them for that long?" to "what a great experience." Those who see peril and risk and try to protect their children as much as possible to those who understand our primary role as parents is to develop adults who make good decisions and can live independently.

We are not risk seekers, Leslie and I. But at the same time we know our kids face daily risks and accidents and sometimes we have to let them happen. They need to learn to fail as much as they need to learn to succeed. They need to learn how to make their own risk assessments so later in life when their windows of opportunity present themselves they will make the leaps necessary to improve themselves and their lives.

Children love to come to us and say "look what I did!" not "Look what you did for me!" Accomplishments are based on overcoming risk, even slight risks. Making the choice to be successful is risking failure. We need to teach our children how to take these risks. We need to accept that life and risk are inseparable and allow individuals to make choices, to make decisions, and to accept the consequences of their actions and decisions the risks they chose to take. Our society has increasingly moved those consequences from the individual to society as a whole, the blame for poor risk management and decisions from the individual to others. Too many are passing this philosophy and dependency onto their children, inhibiting their ability in the future to make decisions, grasp opportunities, leap through windows, limit their opportunities for success.

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing...Security does not exist in nature," Peggy quotes us from Helen Keller. Imagining not being able to see, hear or speak one wonders how can life be experienced, and yet Keller did experience life to the extent she understood the relationship between risks, security, and life more than those without any of her disabilities.

In this troubled economy so many people have seen their job loss, or loss of their home, as an opportunity, a window to jump through. Starting a new business, being free to move to another region of the state or country for a new job or career, unburdening themselves from emotional anchors that have weighed them down from creatively soaring, these individuals have taken risks and are succeeding. Instead of shutting down and creating negative environments for themselves they have opened up to the changes available. They have taken risks, easier to take after losing what they thought was security.

Take a risk.

Jump through the open window of opportunity. Go to your personal Home Depot and buy that window yourself and open it.

Be open to changes in your life and match them with your vision for what you truly want to do and want to be. Balance risk analysis and risk management.

Most importantly trust yourself, your wisdom, your experience, your talents, your creativity, your judgment, your relationships and your faith. Jump and you can soar.

DCS 07282010


Bob Schilling said...

True...sometimes it takes a little risk to have a little success. And the highs can be worth the inevitable lows.

From Bangalore, India, working with a new client....

Charles S said...

You have collected some great thoughts here, thank you. The ending about "vision" is most challenging. After more the six decades, I still do not know what I want to do, to be or not to be. As a product of the "Baby Boom" era, we had it all, everything was easy, no pressure to make decisions, little risk, etc. Now, everything is at risk and haven't a clue. Any ideas?

Dennis C Smith said...

@Bob: DC's Musings are truly an international must read!

@Charles: My suggestion: do what you are passionate about and truly enjoy. Many people work for a paycheck and are dispassionate, or worse about their job and employment, fewer do what they enjoy and care about and get paid to do it. Obviously there needs to be some skill level attached, I am passionate about golf but could not make a living playing it--however I could find a way to work in the industry itself that did not require my handicap to be at least 10 points lower.

If the intangibles are as great or greater than the compensation then your in the right place/field.