I was speaking at a conference in Dallas and arrived early enough to attend a conference mixer, the first night’s networking party. Imagine walking into a huge conference center ballroom, brightly decorated with a State Fair theme, and a thousand people in attendance. Bright lights, vendor booths, corn dogs and cocktails. And tucked between the popcorn stand and one of the open bars was a mechanical bull. Yes, a bull—as in John Travolta in the movie Urban Cowboy for those of you who remember the 80s.
Adequately fueled by Coors Light, several attendees were taking turns riding this fella. There was lots of and whoopin’ and hollerin’ going on, and iPhones capturing the riders on video.
As I walked by, the booth sponsor tipped his cap, gave me a wink and said, “You next, Cowgirl?”
I’m not going to lie. This cowgirl wanted to ride that bull. I really did, even though it was totally out of my comfort zone.
I winked back and told him I’d think about it as the WHAT IFS started swirling in my brain like a Texas tornado.
What if I embarrass myself in front of everyone?
What if I get hurt? (I’m not getting any younger and could actually break a hip!)
What if I get bucked off that bull and knock my front teeth out?
To be honest, it was the last WHAT IF that prevented me from saying “yes” to the man’s offer. I had visions of trying to deliver my presentation the next day with no teeth! I decided I could not take that risk, as the client had hired me to do a job that would require both teeth and the ability to speak clearly. I had to be responsible.
There’s still a little part of me that regrets not hopping on that bull. But I am not generally a big risk taker. I like to stay nicely tucked into my comfort zone when possible. Is it good? Or is it a bad thing? Is it both? Or does it depend on the circumstances?
Are you a risk taker?
Many of life’s achievements do require going outside of your comfort zone. Whether it means overcoming stage fright to give a presentation, investing money to grow your business, or putting yourself out there on a dating site, some of life’s most rewarding experiences come as a result of taking risks. Sometimes risks are necessary and good!
However, some of us have a difficult time dealing with the uncertainty that goes along with taking risks. That’s when those pesky WHAT IFS come knocking!
What if I forget my words?
What if they laugh at me?
What if I lose all the money that I invested?
What if I open my heart and get rejected?
What if I fall?
What if I fail?
But there’s another WHAT IF to consider…
What if the point of taking risks isn’t the outcome, but the process itself?
Perhaps it is the process of deciding whether to take risks or not that is where the growth happens. And developing the self-awareness and other-awareness to make the most appropriate decisions is part of that process. It is thinking clearly about the risk vs. reward of each individual situation. It is facing the fear of failure—and overcoming your fear, when appropriate.
Of course there are different kinds and levels of risks. Investing your life savings into a business venture has a different level of risk than eating two-day-old sushi. Accepting a new job is different than gambling at the local casino. And getting on one knee to say “Marry me?” involves a much different risk than hopping on a mechanical bull.
The next time you face an opportunity that involves risk…use it. Yes, I said opportunity! Use it to think honestly about your WHAT IFS and your WHYS. Embrace the process as an opportunity to grow, face your fears, and decide what is best for you.
As for me, next time…I’m riding the bull!
Kelly Radi is a real life Wonder Woman! She’s a sought-after speaker and award-winning author. Her latest book is called Wonder-FULL: Activate Your Inner Superpowers (No Cape Required). Learn more about Kelly at raditowrite.com