Why Risk and Repeat

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In the past few years, I have gotten to know many daring risk-takers in the startup world and through Yunika (the women’s leadership organization I founded in San Francisco, which now has a division in Copenhagen). Although the individuals are extremely different from each other, there is one defining aspect in all of them that brings them together and draws me to them:

Their eagerness to create and evolve and their willingness to question what others assume is the right path.

In our conversations, both personally and collectively, the concept of risk keeps coming up again and again. Sometimes it revolves around leaving an unsatisfying work situation and exploring new career paths, and other times it is about moving somewhere else or reconsidering a relationship or lifestyle.

In all cases, it is about wanting more out of life and not only allowing oneself to ask for it, but taking action to get it.

There are always obstacles, concerns, and “what ifs” that preoccupy the mind, and they always emerge from risk-averse and timid standpoints, which is very understandable considering how much energy and resources we put into our education, our careers, our relationships, and mostly our notions of who and what we think we should have become at this point and place in our lives.

And let’s not beat around the bush; starting over, especially from scratch, is just plain uncomfortable, no matter what it is.

What if acting on our risky ideas turns out to be the wrong decision? What if we don’t gain what we want out of it (or think we want out of it), or worse yet, lose out on something because of it? So, we end up doing nothing. Eventually, whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we become complacent at best (if we are well-tempered) and bitter at worst (if we are ill-tempered) — either way, it is not pretty.

We all have an idea of what is expected of us from our surroundings (I grew up with a Chinese mother, so my “rights and wrongs” were most likely even more spelled out, yay lucky me), but for some irritating reason, I have never been able to adhere to them, even though I have honestly, truly tried (I forced myself through completing an entire college degree to try to conform to a more correct path), and oh have I beaten myself up for not being able to happily conform.

I can only imagine what my family (and even friends) were thinking when I flew to Los Angeles on my 18th birthday to go to acting school (instead of applying my great GPA to a proper university), started as lead singer in a rock band, spent a couple of years earning a Black Belt in Kung Fu, helped my Grandmaster write his memoirs, then (over)compensated for all my fluffy career choices by studying Psychology and finishing my degree in two years instead of the usual four in the US (summa cum laude of course) because I needed a paper to prove I wasn’t crazy (FYI, paper knows nothing), got married, got divorced, moved to San Francisco, got into a new relationship, got out of a new relationship, started an organization for female founders, got a motorcycle license and a very fast motorcycle, got involved in various startup projects, got a job in a corporate tech company as Marketing Coordinator, then Regional Marketing Manager, then Head of Marketing for all of the Americas (that one finally pleased my mother), eventually quit my job (mother stopped being pleased), started investing my money (mother was even less pleased), and now I am traveling around the world, writing (how about we just stop referring to my mother)…

It has taken me years (and a very proud and supportive boyfriend) to teach me that every single active choice I have made came from strength (and my uncredited inner compass) and has made me the true protagonist of my own life.

Even though there have been plenty of rough patches, some of which pushed me beyond levels of describable discomfort, at least I cannot fault myself for not having thrown myself out there for the pursuit of my own “right” and gaining that many more reference points to help reshape my ever-widening circle.

So (from the perspective of an apparently compulsory risk-taker), I think the only thing you will ever really come to regret is all the things that your beautiful mind thought up, but that you did not (at least attempt to) do. Eventually, if you truly commit to taking the necessary risks to become happier and better, I promise that wealth will follow, love will follow, and fulfillment will follow. Strength (and kindness) cannot help but perpetuate strength (and kindness).

So PLEASE, just do it! Stop talking about it. Stop preparing for it. Just do it.