Do home­work, then go af­ter what you want in life

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

THE world is still reel­ing from the death of Steve Jobs, the Ap­ple, Inc. co-founder and former CEO. His cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion has been com­pared to Henry Ford, Thomas Edi­son and Leonardo da Vinci.

On the other hand, de­scrip­tions of his per­sonal char­ac­ter range from per­sua­sive and charis­matic to er­ratic and tem­per­a­men­tal.

No mat­ter what your view, you must agree that Steve Jobs brought us into the world of per­sonal com­put­ing, iphones and ipads. In ad­di­tion, he has left us with at least four pow­er­ful per­sonal mes­sages that can guide our life and ca­reer. These mes­sages are; “love what you do,” “don’t waste your time liv­ing some­one else’s life,” “don’t let the noise of other’s opin­ions drown out your own in­ner voice” and “you can’t con­nect the dots go­ing for­ward, you can only con­nect them look­ing back­wards.”

In my mind, Steve Jobs has pro­vided us with some pro­found tru­isms for life suc­cess. His mes­sage clearly sug­gests that to gain per­sonal and pro­fes­sional life suc­cess, each of us has to take risks. What about you? What risks are you pre­pared to take? How do you go about tak­ing risks in your ca­reer?

Risk is all about uncer­tainty and am­bi­gu­ity; it’s about trav­el­ling in a cer­tain di­rec­tion even though you don’t know if the route will get you to where you want to be. Risk is all about tak­ing a chance that an ac­tion you take in your life or ca­reer will turn out for the best.

Risk also has a num­ber of el­e­ments to it. For in­stance, in some cases there may be phys­i­cal risks and dan­ger. In other jobs, the risks may be emo­tional.

For in­stance, so­cial work­ers may be­come so in­ter­twined with their clients that they are not able to sep­a­rate their pro­fes­sional du­ties. Fi­nally, risk may also have fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions.

A ca­reer risk typ­i­cally in­cludes ac­tions such as start­ing a new job with a new or­ga­ni­za­tion, mov­ing to an­other lo­ca­tion to ac­cept a job, ac­cept­ing a pro­mo­tion, or en­rolling in a col­lege or a univer­sity pro­gram. Peo­ple who write books are tak­ing a chance that peo­ple will want to read what they say. Peo­ple who quit their cur­rent job to start a busi­ness are also tak­ing a ca­reer risk.

Ca­reer risk-tak­ers aren’t sim­ply will­ing to take a leap of faith, they are self-con­fi­dent and don’t let crit­i­cism dampen their en­thu­si­asm. They are flex­i­ble and will­ing to try new things. They see ob­sta­cles and chal­lenges as op­por­tu­ni­ties and are not eas­ily dis­cour­aged. Risk-tak­ers are good prob­lem solvers who refuse to be over­whelmed by the big­ger is­sues, but rather they are able to dis­sect these is­sues and work through each one step by step. Risk-tak­ers do their home­work — they ex­am­ine the pros and cons of each sit­u­a­tion, they ex­am­ine the con­se­quences of fail­ure and they cre­ate fall-back strate­gies. Fi­nally, risk tak­ers are al­ways pro-ac­tive in mov­ing their life and ca­reer for­ward.

On the other hand, risk-averse in­di­vid­u­als will rarely get started. Since they per­ceive risk from the point of view of dan­ger and/or loss, these in­di­vid­u­als hes­i­tate and pro­cras­ti­nate. They may in fact take a step for­ward but rarely do they go through with their ini­tial goal. They are se­cu­rity con­scious and afraid of change. In fact, on oc­ca­sion a risk averse per­son will of­ten stay in a bad ca­reer sit­u­a­tion rather than take the risk of a self-ini­ti­ated change. Un­for­tu­nately, these in­di­vid­u­als will by­pass many ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in their life­time.

In our glob­al­ized and fast-paced world, I be­lieve that risk tak­ing is go­ing to play an even more im­por­tant part in our fu­ture suc­cess. What then can be done to de­velop a sense of se­cu­rity and con­trol as one en­ters the realm of risk tak­ing? The fol­low­ing tips may pro­vide some guid­ance.

Thor­oughly pre­pare your goals and ob­jec­tives — Take time to re­search and se­cure ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion to help you ef­fec­tively set your goals and ob­jec­tives. Ex­am­ine op­tions avail­able to you and pri­or­i­tize them.

Re­view po­ten­tial chal­lenges — Ev­ery goal will have its chal­lenges as the goal to suc­cess is rarely a straight line. Iden­tify and as­sess the po­ten­tial bar­ri­ers and ob­sta­cles and de­velop a plan to over­come them.

Plan for op­tions — If your spe­cific goal is not read­ily at­tain­able, con­sider what can be done to build upon other op­por­tu­ni­ties that will lead you to­ward the goal, but per­haps through a broader path.

As­sess your stamina — Take time to de­ter­mine what you are will­ing to put into your goal. Do you have the time, en­ergy and re­sources to carry out your goal? Is your goal re­al­is­tic and at­tain­able?

Iden­tify your fears and deal with them — Tak­ing risks is all about giv­ing up con­trol for a short time as you are try­ing out a new be­hav­iour, skill or op­por­tu­nity. This sense of loss cre­ates anx­i­ety. These feel­ings are nat­u­ral so don’t let them hold you back.

Com­part­men­tal­ize the risk — Tackle risk from a prob­lem-solv­ing per­spec­tive. Iden­tify the var­i­ous el­e­ments of the risk, ex­am­ine the chal­lenge, ob­sta­cles and strate­gies and cre­ate con­crete steps with vis­i­ble and con­crete mile­stones. This con­crete­ness pro­vides se­cu­rity and re­duces per­sonal fear.

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