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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Taking Risks: The Missing Ingredient

RISK! The Missing Ingredient: Talent + Hard Work + Willingness to Risk = Realized Potential

That was the title of the Opening Keynote by Madeleine Homan, MCC, at the International Coach Federation New York City chapter's annual conference in September 2005. I felt very excited and blessed to be in the presence of so many great coaches. There were many thought-provoking lectures and workshops that day, but I was most moved and inspired by Ms. Homan's speech (not to mention that she sang the song "No Day But Today", one of my favorite, from the broadway show "Rent" at the end of her speech.... let's face it, it takes real gut to sing in front of 400 people!)

I'd like to share what I learned from her speech with you. Ms. Homan said that the four major reasons people don't take risks (in life, business, relationships, etc) are: fear of change (the primary reason), fear of it being too hard & eats your life, fear of judgement (from other people), and fear of failure (particularly common for people who are already successful in some way). How many of these can you identify within yourself? I can certainly relate to one or more of these in different aspects & events in my own life.

Most people are afraid of changes. We'd rather keep the status quo (even if the situation is bad), because it is familiar and it's easier to stay in our "comfort zone". However, to make positive changes we need to first change our mindset about change. We need to be aware of what we are letting go (of old things or people or beliefs), and the reason we are letting go of these is to make room for new/better things.

Taking risks does not mean jumping blindly off a cliff without a safety net or a parachute. Although John Burroughs said "Leap, and the net will appear", Ms. Homan suggested building a pair of wings before jumping off a cliff. She said, you can certainly build your wings on your way down -- but at least build the infrastructure of the wings before you jump.

There are things you can do to make taking risks a little easier. For example, if you are afraid of failure or tackling something way too hard for you, do your homework, prepare yourself before you take the risks, get help (borrow or pay for as much expertise as you can), build a support community (friends, family, your life coach) that will support you & advocate for you, make realistic goals (but don't forget to dream bigger too), do the "inner work" so that you can honor your values and intuition (the "small still voice" inside of you). Basically, if you build a safety net to support your new endeavor, you won't be so paralyzed by the thought of taking risks that you can't move forward.

Another point she made was courage. The original meaning of the word "courage" is "the ability to stand by one's heart". She stressed that as coaches, we need to be a role model for our clients, and that we're paid to challenge our clients, including in the area of courage. Even if you are not a coach, this applies to you too. No matter what your job/role is (be it a parent or teacher or manager or friend), you need to be a role model for someone else.

I was thinking about her speech over the weekend, this came to mind and I'd like to share with you. I don't know if you've watched the movie "Legally Blonde 2" from a few years ago. My daughter loved that movie because it's funny and cute. Although the movie wasn't Oscar-worthy in any way, there was a message from that movie that spoke to my heart. In the movie the main character Elle Woods got a chance to address the congress and she told a story of her own experience. She waited for months to get an appointment at this very expensive and prestigious salon. Unfortunately, the hair stylist didn't cut her hair the way she wanted it, then they used the wrong solution to perm her hair -- it was a total disaster. The whole time she kept quiet, too afraid to speak up because it was THE most expensive, prestigious salon and she thought they know better than she did. Needless to say, she ended up with a ridiculous haircut and feeling terrible for herself.

The moral of the story is, things happened the way they did because she did not participate actively in the process and did not speak up for herself. At the end of her speech to the congress, she said, "Speak up, or America is in for a really bad haircut!"

Take a moment and think about it. Does your life suffer from "bad haircut" on a regular basis? You know that you are your own advocate. If you don't speak up and stand up for yourself, then who will?

  • What events/situations in your life happened because you did NOT speak up for yourself?
  • In what areas of your life do you need to demonstrate more courage? Is it your business, relationship, time for yourself, health and emotional well-being?
  • In what way do you need to "stand up for your life" (as Cheryl Richardson said)?

Once you identify at least one area of your life that you want to show more courage & take more risks, what can you do to build the safety net (or wings or parachute) before taking the leap of faith? What would be the first step you can take this week to move toward your goal?

March boldly toward your goals and dreams. I'd love to hear from you about your thoughts and your daring new adventure. If you ever need to talk, I'm always here.

Taking Risks: The Missing Ingredient 4.5 Hendratok