It turns out that we humans aren’t great at making a calm and logical assessment of risks. We focus more on emotions which doesn’t help us when we’re assessing innovative opportunities. The pain and shame of failure is amplified in our heads, sometimes to catastrophic proportions.
Too many brilliant and creative ideas are crippled by how we deal with risk. Sacrificing the present and future on a single idea and discounting the cost of risk is as dangerous as not giving the idea enough resources to get off the ground.
A story of fear and not understanding risk
Since I first decided to work on my own I’ve been devouring books, articles, and videos to make all conditions perfect. I’d leap at an opportunity and put all my effort into a single idea. Then the reality of not having given the idea adequate resources would hit hard and I’d know I was failing again. Finding another cool opportunity, I would repeat this pattern over and over.
During one downward cycle when I was seriously considering if I’d be better off returning to the treadmill of a regular soul-sucking day job, I met one of the top thinkers in my field.
We talked about the freedom and fears of being a solo-preneur, and then he told me, “I’ve found lately that my consulting business is going down; there isn’t the money or interest in business right now to invest.” As you can imagine, I really didn’t want to hear that.
“No! You are meant to tell me of the fabulous rainbow that will be waiting for me when I’m as well-known as you!”
My hero smiled. “A good day is having enough money for the next three months. On a bad day, it’s down to just days.” As my jaw dropped, he added, “I’ve got the online workshop going, and now the book.”
After pondering over this for days, I realised that our conversation wasn’t about failure but how I needed to embrace an uncertain future, work at more than one idea at a time and shift my priorities as I balance risk.
So here are my two powerful ways to escape the fear cycle and unlock innovation
This idea originates from the innovative, exciting and often fatal world of the Silicon Valley tech start-ups. We hear of Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, and the dismal failure rate of all of those who dare to try.
What keeps so many of these smart people going as they experience the first few failures before finding something that works? Their motto is “Fail Cheap, Fail Quick, and Fail Often”.
Risk what is affordable in terms of money, reputation, and energy. By failing cheaply you can recover quickly from a failure, learn more about your market and take better advantage of a success.
Consider the risk of an imperfect decision versus no decision. If you don’t act at all, others are likely to see and grab the opportunity before you do. Then they are the innovators, not you.
Sometimes it’s a matter of numbers before you get the confidence and knowledge you need to succeed. Frequency will teach your brain to learn about risk and to be unafraid of failure.
If you don’t put your whole heart, reputation and finances into a single opportunity then you can weather the storms of circumstance, and come out alive and ready for the next one. Balance the risk of the opportunity with other activities and have a strong place from which to work.
Some ways to balance out the risks are:
The more you challenge yourself with risk, the more you’ll see its power to create serendipitous opportunities and give you the innovative success you desire. It will take you to a new level of awesomeness in business and in life.
Good luck, darlings!
Soozie Brown is a revolutionary, futurist and Rhizome entrepreneur at InnovaTribe.
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