Avoiding Risk Is Dangerous

Failing your way to success.

When you ask a kindergarten class which one of them are artists, all of them will raise their hands because all of them believe that they are in fact artists. Now flash forward ten years and as a class of high school juniors and ask them how many are artists? Only a small smattering of brave souls will raise their hands.

Why is that? Simple, they have been trained to not stand out, to hunker down, and become part of society. Which of course, is exactly what public school was designed to do in the first place; make everyone good, functioning, members of society. Pretty horrid isn’t it?  But true, sadly too true.

Now think about your company. How many times a day, or a week, or even in a year, does someone in your organization come up with something that is truly innovative? Be honest now. Not often, right? And even when someone does come up with a good idea, the first thing everyone else will do is brainstorm, that’s right everyone else around that person, will strain their brain to find the flaws in that idea. The first comments, once everyone has strained their brains will be reasons why this innovative idea will not work.

I’ve seen it happen over and over again. We can convince a company to send out a series of newsletters to target companies they want to do business with. We will send out two thousand newsletters a month, and we will get a nice open rate of over ten percent (yes, two hundred people out of two thousand is a very good open rate). Out of the two hundred that open the newsletter one customer will complain about it. She might say that she get’s too many newsletters, or he might not agree with something that we said in the newsletter. Anyway, whatever the complaint, they tell our salesperson, who tells the company management and that is all they will focus on. They will even consider stopping the newsletter plan because one person complained. Talk about living in fear! Talk about letting the proverbial tail wag the dog! But don’t laugh, I see it every day.

We all love innovation, but we are terrified at the thought of being innovators. We fear failure so much that we would rather do nothing than fail. 

If you look at our great inventors, they failed all the time. Edison failed over a thousand times before he successful developed a light bulb that would work longer than a few seconds. Ted Williams considered that greatest batter of all times failed six out of ten times at bat! And Wayne Gretzy never made a shot he didn’t take.

Why are we so scared to try? What makes us want to play it safe all the time? Look, I spend a great deal of my life trying to push people out of their comfort zones, so I know how hard it is, heck, I spend a lot of my time mentally lifting myself out of my own comfort zone. Comfort zones are warm and cozy and worry free…they’re, well they’re comfortable, what else can we say?

But nothing gets done in a comfort zone. If for example, you say that you have all the business you need, What you need to do is to come up with a new marketing plan, or a sales initiative, or you are going to fail. No matter what a great job you feel you are doing, it will not sustain you, and sustain you at the level of business that you need to stay alive. Stuff happens, customers do not stay the same, they are bought, they merge, they go out of business. On an average most companies lose twenty to thirty percent of their customers each year by attrition. That statistic should be enough to set your butt afire so that you jump right out of that comfort zone. The statement that if you are not growing you are dying has never been more true. The world is changing faster than it ever has before. And in the end the best way to handle change, is to change!

If something scares you, do it anyway. What is the worst that can happen? Unless you are a pilot or a brain surgeon, failure is seldom fatal. In fact, some of the greatest and most innovative ideas, inventions, and positive changes, on this planet have come out of failures. Do not be afraid to fail, and you will in the end, succeed. Get out there and try something new today, get out there and start something today, and if you fail try again, and again, and again. In the end, you will become one of the great innovators in your field. It’s only common sense.

This column originally appeared on pcb.iConnect007.com

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