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The Importance of Fear and Risk


Posted by on August 11, 2009

fear

Fear is a survival mechanism that kicks into gear when you’re brain senses danger and even risk.  Fear and risk are vital components for personal and business development.  When you are in a risky scary place, then you start to come up with creative and interesting ways to survive and develop.  You test yourself and your ability to succeed.  I actually think that we don’t test ourselves enough.  I have taken 2 huge risks in my life that scared me.  The first was throwing all of my clothes in my car and moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco.  The second was quitting my full time job with a steady paycheck to venture out on my own.  I’ve done both successfully thus far and I’ve never looked back.  These are two pivotal points in my life that have really helped me grow and excel, both professionally and career wise.

It’s easy to get comfortable if you have 20k sitting around in a savings account because you know that even if everything went to hell that you’d still be able to survive on your savings for a full year without having to do anything.  It’s good to have that cushion to bail you out but it can also be damaging to your creativity and your ingenuity.  I actually found a few great quotes on the importance of risk and fear that I wanted to share with you:

American proverb:

It doesn’t work to leap a twenty-foot chasm in two ten-foot jumps.

Douglas MacArthur:

There is no security on this earth. Only opportunity.

Erich Fromm:

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.

Chet Atkins:

Everything I’ve ever done was out of fear of being mediocre.

Eleanor Roosevelt:

You must do the things you think you cannot do.

Hannah Arendt:

Fear is an emotion indispensable for survival.

The current economic conditions have really shown me that when people are faced with fear and risk that they can really kick ass.  I’ve seen a few friends start their own companies, develop new project ideas, take off to travel the world, reconnect with old friends/family members, etc.  I don’t think we need to look at fear and risk as obstacles but as catalysts to propel us into the next level of whatever it is we are going to do.  I’ll be among the first to admit that I believe a bit more fear and risk would do be good.  I’ve oftentimes debated leaving San Francisco to venture into other areas either domestically or internationally.  As a consultant I really have no physical ties  to San Francisco, but it’s still a gorgeous place to live and very idea/opportunity conducive, especially for social media.

I think we need to remember that there are also different levels of fear, I don’t want to be terrified, paranoid, or in a state of dread (although that may even be good).  I don’t want to go into a state of psychosis and I don’t want to wake up in horror during the middle of the night.  I’m talking about the kind of fear you get from making a radical change in your life (either forced or intentional), from taking on a big risk.

A lot of things I have done in my life came from my desire to want to increase my level of fear and risk.  The startup I ran all of last year (which proved to be an invaluable experience), the social media consultancy I started this year, the book I’m working on finishing, my travels to various places, etc.  I don’t feel like me unless I have something in my life that’s scary or risky; of course I could just be “chemically imbalanced.”

I want to encourage all of you to allow a little bit of fear and risk into your lives.  I’m constantly battling with making crazy changes in my life, and I haven’t done anything that outlandish yet; and that’s because I am scared; but I’m getting to a point where I’m ready to embrace that and just go with it.  So if one day I announce that I’m moving to Argentina for a few months or am going to go climb Mt Everest then I hope you will be scared with me and for me; I know I will.

Do you have anything in your life that scares you?  What sort of risks have you taken lately?

  • http://www.miguelallano.com/ Miguel Llano

    Many people call me a risk taker. I snowboard, gone skydiving, and owned a motorcycle. However, I feel that I am risk adverse. The one thing that I have never been able to do is leave my hometown. I admire your ability to pack up and go. I left for college, but ultimately came right back upon graduation. To me, leaving “home” is a huge risk. You leave all existing layers of your security blanket behind, which is why I have not been able to just pack up and go.

    The one thing that has allowed me to do well is my fear of failure. I hate to let others down, but more importantly, let myself down. I'm pretty sure that at some point I will break off and start my own business. Chances are, it will be in my hometown, but it will be a risk and I am sure fear will drive me forward.

    @miguelallano

  • lizhover

    Hey Jacob – first, thank you for writing this piece on risk and fear and second, thank you for inspiring me to write my own reaction. I appreciate you visiting my blog and taking the time to read my stuff :)

  • Brian

    Man, this was a breath of fresh air. I've been working overseas for a decade, but even within those parameters, I grew comfortable. Now I'm chucking in my Hong Kong gig to move to Tokyo, where the economy is dead and job opps are uncertain. But I wanna be there, so I'm going for it. And yeah, I'm scared. But I've been thinking about this for years and I feel I just need to take the plunge, so I'm doing it. Thanks for reminding me that I'm doing a good thing by taking a chance.

    • http://www.thefutureorganization.com jacobmorgan

      hey thanks Brian. Wow moving to Tokyo? I have always wanted to go to Japan to visit. I spent a month in China recently but never went to Hong Kong. I think it will be an exciting and adventurous trip! Good luck!

  • Brian

    Man, this was a breath of fresh air. I've been working overseas for a decade, but even within those parameters, I grew comfortable. Now I'm chucking in my Hong Kong gig to move to Tokyo, where the economy is dead and job opps are uncertain. But I wanna be there, so I'm going for it. And yeah, I'm scared. But I've been thinking about this for years and I feel I just need to take the plunge, so I'm doing it. Thanks for reminding me that I'm doing a good thing by taking a chance.

  • divinity malshe

    thank you ,this helped me get an A in life span dev.
    Loving your blog!  It would make my day if you checked out mine sometime<3
    http://whatiluvv.blogspot.com/

  • C Lowe

    I appreciate your article so much. I have a great friend leaving for Alaska in a few days to take on one of the worlds most dangerous jobs. He is going out to the Bering Sea on very short notice, and not with a lot of time to think about it. When I searched the importance of fear this article caught my eye right away. I will be sending off a great guy with some great qoutes and knowledge that others have to offer.

    So, I just wanted to take this moment to thank you for sharing your experiences, and telling everyone that fear is ok. Its almost a must have sense. I like this and I could not be any happier to send my dear friend with some comfort. Again, thank you!

    Christi