What is the most useful thing you have ever learned from a risk-taking experience?
From time to time I get questions addressed to me via Quora. Some are interesting, some are not. I rather liked the thoughts that were prompted by this one. It led me to think about risk-taking and non-risk-taking. Do we learn more from the risks we take? Or from the risks we do not take?
I suspect that it depends on where we start.
Some people seem to be natural risk-takers from the day they learn to walk – or before. (These are the ones whose parents’ hair is probably prematurely grey.) Jumping from great heights, leaping into canals with no knowledge of what may be under the water surface, experimenting with the new and the unknown… you know who you are…
Others may be at the other extreme. They fear the unknown, have need to feel certain of the outcome before beginning a project, hesitate to be in the company of people whose looks or lifestyles are very different from their own. They seem to need to feel safe and see uncertainty as unsafe.
I took the rather large risk of leaving behind everything that was familiar, safe, and dear to me when I left England to come to the United States as a legal immigrant. I came with my then husband. Neither of us had jobs. Neither of us knew anyone in our destination city. The only contact we had was an introduction from his pastor to a local pastor. (That was very helpful in the earliest days, but we very soon branched out on our own.)
There have been times, both before and since making that choice, that I chose not to take a risk. As always, there have been pluses and minuses over the years. Overall, I have many more regrets over the risks I did not take (particularly those when I was young) than over those that I did take. That is pretty much par for the course. In my database of over 2,000 quotations, every one that mentions “risk” encourages a willingness to take, rather then recoil from taking them.
(Which, I should add, does not mean that I encourage people to jump into a canal without knowing what is below. Some inquiry, when possible, is always advisable.)
Getting back to the question – what did I learn from taking that risk and the many I have taken since? The main thing that I learned is that I am a competent human being and I need to trust myself and my judgement, even when I am in unknown territory.
And I trust the universe.