Be Bold

When an opportunity or situation presents itself, you may find yourself struggling to work up the courage to tae advantage of it. Opportunities that promise reward come with risk, and the greater the reward, the greater the risk likely is. There’s a simple way to determine whether the risk is acceptable to you, and quickly come to a decision about the opportunity.

It works in two parts.

First, you need to have a definition for your success and your self. That’s what Be the Master preaches. An opportunity is only useful if you can see how it moves you toward, or keeps you at, your success, while not compromising the values that make up your self. If you can’t see how an opportunity leads to your success, then pass on it.

Second, simply ask yourself, “what is the actual worst-case scenario if I do this?” Once you have an answer, decide if you can live with it. If you can, then seize the moment. If not, give it a pass. But this only works if you can really quantify that worst-case scenario. Anything that you can’t quantify, whether you like it or not, is probably not a real risk.

For example: suppose you’re happy enough at your job, but your success requires you to have a position that pays a little more, and puts you in a position to be leading a small team, which you’re not currently doing. You come across a job opportunity that seems like a perfect fit: the pay is about 10% more, and you’d be leading a team of four professionals. The catch? You’d have to move to a new city.

Your spouse has a job too, and your two kids are happy in their school, so moving isn’t an instant-yes scenario. On the other hand, the new city actually has a cost of living that’s about 10% less, so your net financial gain is around 20%. That’s a lot to turn your back on.

First: the opportunity certainly seems to be lining up your success. Since I haven’t laid out your “self” definition, let’s assume for the sake of argument that nothing about the opportunity compromises your personal values. Yes, moving is disruptive, but it’s also the single most powerful career tool you own, so it’s unwise to arbitrarily take it off the table.

Second: An immediately quantifiable risk is that your spouse won’t be able to quickly replace their income in the new city. Your net 20% gain won’t entirely make up for it either. You two talk about it, and you decide that you could probably live with it for a time by cutting back a bit, and the odds of finding a replacement job seem pretty good.

That’s the only quantifiable risk in the illustration. Moving might be unpleasant, but that’s not a risk, that’s an emotion. The kids might not be delighted, but kids adapt (ask any military brat; I can assure you that while moving every three years isn’t always jolly, you turn out just fine in the end, and there are actually some upsides people don’t recognize). I’m not saying you discount your kids’ feelings, but because you can’t quantify the risk, you can’t really make an informed decision about it. Your kids might be one and love the new city; they just as equally might not. Because you have no data to lean you objectively one way or another, you’re staring at an even, fifty-fifty randomized chance. It’s the same either way, from a decision making perspective.

There are obviously tons more factors that go into decisions like this; I’m not trying to make this a case for everyone uprooting their families tomorrow morning <grin>. The point is to consider the risks of an opportunity, and set aside anything that can’t be known, because you can’t know it either way. If you can live with the quantifiable risks, then you’ve got a viable candidate opportunity in front of you. This applies to big life decisions like changing jobs, as well as smaller life decisions that invite us to courage-up and seize the day.

About the Author

Don Jones is a well-known technology speaker, author, and practitioner, with dozens of books, years of magazine articles, and hundreds of lectures under his belt. He's also a business leader, and authors books on business, learning, and instructional design at Leanpub.com/u/donjones. "Be the Master," the third edition of Don's book on achieving success and helping others, has been changing the lives of people all over the world.