What does it take to embrace risk?

Most every person encounters risk in their life.  What does it take for people to embrace risk and succeed?  Psychologically, embracing risk propels us to overcome fear.  The construction men who built the Empire State Building in 1931 knew their lives were at stake but somehow managed to acquire the courage to do their jobs.  Then and today, this building is one of the most important landmarks in New York City that represents the strength and power of the American economy.  The men who helped build it are today our heroes. 


In business, risk management teaches us that we know we are confronting obstacles and there’s a possibility of failure.  Succeeding at something risky, they tell us, requires increasing the odds of success.  In our contemporary day business landscape, it is more and more difficult to predict the odds of success because of rapid and unforeseen changes.  We try to use logic to make the best predictions about favorable outcomes, but often reason fails us.


While scientists are very logical, some of the most famous have claimed that their discoveries did not come from a rational place in their mind.  The most notable scientist who made this observation, Albert Einstein, concluded that his discoveries came from an intuitive part of his brain and even happened by chance.


Embarking upon a bold and ambitious endeavor, such as being an entrepreneur, then entails tapping into the most creative and resourceful part of ourselves.  The famous Romantic painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner, claimed that he could not create until he overcame fear.  Not surprisingly, his best and most famous art depicts the sublime, which philosophers defined as something that evokes awe and wonder but also terror, such as his paintings of whaling in turbulent seas or Hannibal crossing the stormy Alps.  These adventures required bravery and facing threatening external circumstances that by sheer will and determination they had to overcome.  In order to overcome fear, he learned how to embrace it as the inspirational force behind his work.  In fact, he would not have been able to create if he had not had that emotion.  Embracing risk also requires knowing how to navigate the chaos of the unknown.  Turner’s canvases are chaotic, but at the same time they unveil visionary miracles. 


It seems then that embracing risk requires some sort of existential faith.  The convictions within ourselves that set us upon this course tell us that we simply must try.  Artists in particular, as well as the religiously devout, for whom their passion was also their faith, also admit that they felt they were left with no choice but to pursue their passions.  What proves to make these people successful in embarking upon very risky endeavors is that they are able to tap into the most authentic part of themselves.  They recognize their own uniqueness and inherent value and are able to simply go with what is inside of themselves fearlessly and relentlessly.  The ancients said “Know Thyself,” and the reason why they said that was because they recognized the innate potential of human beings and every individual’s unique self-worth.