I recently had a difficult decision.
I won't divulge any specific details, but suffice it to say that I had to make a rather quick decision that could alter the course of my career. With such an enormous choice, I put out feelers to some people in my similar position in order to hear their thoughts and make a more calculated decision. I listened, considered the pros and cons, and tried to see it from all the various angles.
Then, I pulled the trigger and made the choice that made the most sense to me.
Yet even after opting on my particular direction, I had a couple of people frantically tell me to reconsider, that it could be very bad for me and tried to halt my course. I calmly listened and essentially said that my decision was made, thanked them for the advice and that we'd see where my decision went.
As much as I felt secure in what I'd decided, that I'd taken the time to see it from the different angles, weighed the separate ways I could have gone, this one particular person's frantic cries for me to stop and reconsider really weighed on me. It ate at the excitement I felt in the decision I'd made. It bothered me.
There was that idea that I was risking everything by choosing my particular route. You're risking everything. You're risking that people might not like you anymore. You're risking something you've been working on. You're risking other opportunities. You risk! You risk! You risk!
But I came to a conclusion: Everything thing in life is a risk.
You risk everything when you wake up. When you leave the safety of your house. Everything around you is a risk. Literally everything. Some minor. Some major. Many lie between these polar opposites. Yet all is risk.
More specifically, I've been dwelling on the idea of dreams--DREAM job. DREAM career. DREAM life--and how much you should risk in order to achieve those dreams. Because you will HAVE to risk something to grab those dreams, whether it's a portion of your free time, less sleep than you'd like, certain expensive expenditures, or even a stable income.
When you have a difficult to achieve dream, people will tell you that it's not a good idea, that it's too much of a risk to sacrifice a real career for something that won't happen.
But you know what? By getting that realistic diploma or that realistic job or that realistic home in that realistic neighborhood, you're making a risk, too. Maybe a more comfortable risk. But it's still a risk. And in that case, you're risking your deepest dreams.
And those elusive dreams will haunt you.
A friend of mine is a very successful businessman who lives in Napa Valley and is a part-owner in a fantastic winery. On one of our trips to wine country, my wife and I were lucky enough to stay at his home and one night, at dinner, I leaned forward and asked him a very simple question: "To what do you attribute all of your success?"
He sort of chuckled, no doubt having been asked this question more than once and he, quite honestly, chalked it up to one particular thing: the ability to make choices. I was somewhat stunned. It wasn't what I expected. He believed he was a smart man, but not exceptionally smart. He'd had a fine education. His family wasn't poor, wasn't rich. He was a hard worker, but so were many people.
As he saw it, his success came from his ability to pull the trigger and see things through.
He admitted that he hadn't always made the right choices, but he always stuck it out until its end. He learned from the wrong choices, resolved to make better ones in the future. Too many of his peers were stifled by difficult choices, he said, and his superiors always noticed his ability to face those hard decisions and see them through.
I thought on this for quite some time and realized something very specific. In life, you have to make choices. They're not always easy and there often isn't a clear path or road signs to direct you. There will be risk no matter what, but the one aspect you can control is the type of risk that is worth it.
You must choose your risk or the risk will choose you.