You've got to risk to grow


What are your views about risk? Are you comfortable taking them? Do you manage them or avoid them? Your concept about risk will determine whether you are able to develop a growth mindset or not.


In my previous two articles, I spoke about the Learning and the Bounce Back Dimensions of the growth mindset. Today, I will discuss the third Dimension, Risk Taking.


What type of risks?

Before we jump into the impact of Risk Taking on the growth mindset, we need to qualify what risks we are talking about. Obviously we are not talking about being reckless. There are some people who are more than willing to just throw pearls at swine. That is irresponsible and not what we are talking about. Especially when it comes to money, we want to take a more measured approach, as we shall discuss later.


So, apart from loss of capital, what else do we risk?


Well for one, you risk being wrong. As we discussed earlier, the Learning Dimension embraces failure for its learning richness. Hence, one needs to risk being seen as wrong, a failure, or even as incompetent in order to learn. I suppose the question is - which do you value more, knowledge or pride?


Not only did we lose a 5- to 6-figure revenue for next year, we also lost the relationship that came with it, and that was more painful.

We may also risk our relationships. I recall during the Covid19 lockdown, we could not run any face-to-face training. But one of our customers wanted to continue with training and would like to try online training. While I knew that our strategic thinking programme won't do well online, without trying, we will never know if that were the case. So I risked our continued relationship by trying it out with them. Well, we tried our best, but the sessions bombed and we have not heard from them since. Not only did we lose a 5- to 6-figure revenue for next year, we also lost the relationship that came with it, and that was more painful. But, we did learn a lot!


We also risk our reputation, our social standing, our intelligence and our pride. Wow! That is a lot of things we are risking, isn't it? But if you look deeper, these are not catastrophic risks, are they?


Some are very comfortable standing at the precipice of failure, looking into the abyss of defeat, and still take that next step.

Why is Risk Taking a growth mindset Dimension?

When you think about it, if indeed "failure" is the means to learning, then we will need to take that first step to learn, risking our personal name, pride and all those elements we spoke of earlier, to "fail". Now, you may recall in my previous article where I spoke about TEFCAS, saying that there is no such thing as "failure" so long as we continue to get up and try again. But there is still risk. And we do need to take that risk, to strike out and find out what we know and what we don't know. The higher our tendency to take risk, the higher the potential learning payoff. Of course, different people have different propensity for risk and failure. Some are very comfortable standing at the precipice of failure, looking into the abyss of defeat, and still take that next step. This may be because the person has high Bounce Back abilities to allow him/her to risk a little more than others. Yet, we want to remind that person that there is a fine line between confidence and hubris, and one should not risk too much even if one were able to recover from that fall. Hence, there CAN be a situation where too much risk taking is no good. However that tipping point is different for different people. This means that we all have to learn to manage risk.