A Short Guide to Risk Taking

Caitie WhelanCaitie Whelan is the Founder/Noter-in-Chief of The Lightning Notes, a short daily post to help us move the world forward. She just ran a Changemaker Chats workshop on The Art of Risk Taking. Couldn’t make it? We’ve got you covered. Here, Caitie writes about one of the key – and surprisingly easy – risk taking strategies she shared that evening.

My alarm goes off at 10:51 every night.

That’s 15 hours and 55 minutes after my alarm goes off in the morning (6:56am).

And the 10:51pm alarm has one purpose: to remind me to write down the risk I took during those 15 hours and 55 minutes that I was awake.

It doesn’t have to be a big risk, some are pretty small potatoes – asking for a discount on browning bananas at the supermarket, say. But small potatoes are better than no potatoes. Which is precisely what I’d been doing for some time.

And I’d have kept on doing that if it hadn’t struck me at some honest moment that I was carrying around all these unrisked risks in me – jobs, loves, chances I wanted, but was too afraid to move towards.

It also struck me that I could carry these risks right to my grave. Or I could take them out of storage and give them some daylight.

But how? I couldn’t go from zero to fearless by clicking my heels.

I knew my friends who train for marathons don’t start by running 26.2 miles. It’s a gradual, steady build. Okay, I figured, why not treat risk like a muscle and go at it the same way. Train it, strengthen it, use it regularly.

And so it began: I ended a phone call to my brother with, “I love you,” rather than my usual, safer “Oklovetoallbye.” I introduced myself to someone I saw every day, but never made eye contact with. I said no to a project I wasn’t comfortable with, when I normally would’ve said yes to please the asker.

A lot of these risks don’t pan out. Which is all right. I walk away telling myself, “Okay, okay, this means you actually took a risk. If they all pan out, then you’re not taking risks, you’re just doing stuff.”

Plus, the more risks we take, the stronger that risk muscle gets and the less hard (which is not the same as easy) the 26.2 mile risks are.

And the alarm? It’s just a way to keep me accountable. To remind me to spend part of my 15 hours and 55 minutes giving my risks some daylight.

Want more writing like this? Sign up for Caitie’s free weekly newsletter.