Excerpted from It’s Your Move: My Million Dollar Method for Taking Risks with Confidence and Succeeding at Work and Life by Josh Altman.
From Chapter 9, “Screw It, You Got to See What Happens”
Simple choices make for simple lives. Every day we make easy, comfortable choices that give us predictable results. That’s a good thing. Lives full of chaos only make sense in movies and the Real Housewives franchise. What’s important is that we don’t get so stuck in the ruts of what’s comfortable that we’re not able to make the big, daring choices that are required to elevate our lives out of normalcy. Boring choices may keep you safe and content, but they won’t make you rich, successful, or, in my opinion, truly happy.
You decide what genre of movie your life is going to be. Is it going to be a romantic comedy, a tragedy, or a very boring documentary about what it’s like to be a shoe salesman in Toledo, Ohio. (Not that there’s anything wrong with shoe salesmen. That’s how my grandfather got his start!) I have decided that my life is going to be an adventure, so I’m going to have to take on some (calculated) challenges to keep things interesting. That isn’t just a plan for a more interesting life; it is building the skills for success.
New challenges are scary— the vague, irrational scary of the unknown. The fear of the unknown is one of the worst instincts we have, and one we must train ourselves to ignore. In key situations, when you have opportunities that could change your life, that fear will tempt you to be risk averse and to make the simple, easy, boring choice. When you push yourself out of your comfort zone in any aspect of your life, you are training yourself to be able to ignore your irrational fears and trust the messages your mind and your better instincts are giving you. That’s the core of calculated confidence.
I read about a study where professors ran some hypothetical investments past different groups of people with different approaches to risk: rock climbers, smokers, race car drivers, and a student control group. They tried to figure out if the people who sought risk in their regular lives would tend to be riskier investors. The results were surprising: The race car drivers were far and away the most rational investors. They weren’t taking risks for their own sake, but they were more capable of ignoring low-probability risks. Think about it. Race car drivers spend every day doing a job with a very small chance of very big danger. They have to focus themselves on what they can control and not let low-probability dangers get in the way of keeping all their attention on the high-precision driving they need to be doing. So race car drivers, by regularly dealing with risky situations, train themselves to intellectually know that the risks exist but to not let them affect their decision making. They know the dangers exist, but they work to not fear them.
We’re all trained to be scared of making quick, resolute decisions. We’re constantly supposed to be worried about some intangible unknown, and that’s what makes us slow and full of doubt. I want you to ask yourself what this constant level of doubt gets you. Has there ever been a situation where your reticence saved you? Or have you spent your life talking yourself out of opportunities for fun, profit, and adventure?
Sometimes— not all the time— you have to just go with a hunch. If your gut gives you a solid tug in a direction and you can’t see any obvious problems, go for it. The tiny problems you might end up fretting about are exactly the stuff that those professional race car drivers have taught themselves to ignore. You can too. The only difference is that the race car you’re driving is your career.
It’s Your Move. Copyright © 2015 by Joshua Altman. All rights reserved. Published by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.