I am one of those people who encourage others to take risks. I often say:
Life is short and we should do what we love, we should chase our dreams. And we should take risks. Otherwise, we die full of regrets.
They just rolled their eyes. I know it’s hard.
When my wife consulted to use our savings to resell a product worth $115, I hesitated even though it’s an amazing product, and my wife is really good at selling.
I was afraid to risk.
When artist Tsad de Lira proposed a $200 animated cover art for my band’s upcoming single, I thought it’s too expensive. He’s a great artist, but I hesitated.
Again I was afraid to risk.
Then it dawned on me: I’m not a risk taker. I’m not ready to lose. I’m not ready to give all in for my creative projects and my wife’s business. I’m afraid to spend money on things I don’t categorize as “needs.”
Or maybe I’m just being practical. I want to save money for emergencies, for our travels. Or maybe no, I’m just making excuses.
I spent some days contemplating, reflecting, looking for different perspectives, and realized that:
It’s not enough to just risk because we want to do business or chase our dreams. Question if it’s worth the risk.
Business leaders call it a “calculated risk.” But I don’t like that jargon. Calculated risk or not, it’s just the same — risk.
An approach I learned from Derek Sivers is that don’t sell a product or start a business if you don’t have existing customers — find customers first.
My wife agreed that if she can’t find at least 20 customers within a week, she would not risk reselling those products. She found less than 20. Not worth the risk.
I once said that I would risk everything for my dreams — writing and music. Yes. I would. But it’s so easier to say than do it. There are more things to consider.
There’s one question I usually ask before I take risks: Is there an alternative that leads me to same results? My intention is to force myself to look at different point of views, and consider other options. And in most cases, it works.
One thing I’ve learned is that when people are so desperate to achieve their dreams, they tend to overlook other options. As a result, they make illogical decisions. They take the leap of faith without examining the consequences.
So here’s my alternative for the cover art: I negotiated with Tsad de Lira and simplified the project until it’s worth $100 — thank you very much. Although I can opt for a $200 art, but it seems to me that a $100 art can suffice. After all, it’s the music the utmost important, not the cover art.
What if There are No Alternatives?
More often than not, there are alternatives. But our brains are too busy to realize — we are always impatient, we want the obvious. And as a result, we rush. We risk.
And that’s why so many people end up disappointed. Worse is that other areas of their lives were affected too. I don’t want that to happen.
Am I playing safe? Maybe.
Or maybe I’m thinking carefully. I’m thinking about my family. I’m thinking about my other projects. I’m thinking about the bigger picture.
I don’t say that I’m right but I truly believe that we are capable of making wise decisions (if we choose to). But because of social norms and the many “risk all you’ve got it’s now or never” clichés, most of us tend to focus only on one angle.
- Case 1: You have a family to feed, you’re stuck with your day job. And all you wanted is to become a successful singer/songwriter. Here’s how most people risk: Audition for “X Factor” or “The Voice” and let these judges decide that they’re certified singers. Sometimes, they wait for a band to recruit them.
- Case 2: You DON’T have a family to feed, yet you’re stuck in your day job because you love it and it pays well. However, your ultimate dream is to travel the world. Here’s how most people risk: Save enough money and quit their jobs and travel the world.
Here are alternatives I propose:
- Case 1: Drop the timewasters — social media, TV, gossips — so you can find time to write and record songs. If you’re really serious, you’ll find time for it. You’ll write songs. And you’ll ship them. You need not the approval of others. All you need is to choose yourself and do the hard work.
- Case 2: Ask your employer if you can work remotely. If yes, then you have freedom to travel the world. So cool! If no, develop a skill you can freelance such as writing or programming. Then offer your services to others. If people pay your expertise and you can pay your bills without your day job, and you can work remotely, it’s time to quit and travel the world. Hooray.
Of course, there’s no guarantee. That’s why it’s called risk. It’s not safe. It’s scary.
Point is, don’t risk on a whim. Just because it’s your dream and you see an opportunity doesn’t mean it’s always OK to jump in right away.
It’s better to figure out the alternatives. And test them.
The alternatives aren’t the answer. They only provide different routes to take. But sometimes — speaking from experience — an alternative may turn out as the right thing for us. What a surprise.
If you, however, find these alternatives as “play-safe” excuses in disguise — good catch — then forget all about them and take the leap of faith. Only you can tell whether it’s right or wrong. It’s your life and you know it better than anyone else.
But what if I fail?
Do it again. Do it better. Learn from that experience. As the famed author Paulo Coelho once said,
“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”