A critical doer keeps risk and failure in context with opportunity and success
It’s impossible to be a critical doer without taking some risks. Sometimes the risk is relatively small and easily recoverable if it doesn’t work out. Other times, the risk is revolutionary and puts everything at stake.
One such case is the story of my favorite bicycle mechanics, Orville and Wilbur Wright. The Wright Brothers left Ohio and moved to North Carolina with a dream of making powered flight a reality.
There are a number of obvious risks that range from financial to physical. Believe it or not, it’s my observation that people are more willing to take these types of risks than one that is more insidious…perception.
I’m certain the leaders of the bicycle industry felt threatened by the existence of an airplane. Changes that flow from such a radical departure from the standard of the day causes concern over the long term viability of an industry. Can’t you just imagine the conversations where others tried to persuade the Wright Brothers to just make an incremental improvement to the bicycle and forget the airplane nonsense?
The Wright Brothers however were not shaken. They knew the path to powered flight did not involve incremental improvement of the bicycle…it would take an airplane. They calculated the risks and were willing to take them…and they ushered the world into the era of powered flight.
We’ve all been in situations where the circumstances literally screamed aloud for a solution that departs from the status quo. Organizations and individuals have failed because fear of taking smart risks induced mental and spiritual paralysis. Whether it’s failing to adapt to changing circumstances or passing on opportunities for future success when times are good, fear of taking risk in the forum of public opinion kills dreams.
St. Thomas Aquinas reminded us that “if the ultimate goal of a captain was to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” What is going on in your personal life or organization where taking a smart risk could be a game changer? Do your homework to shrink the delta between known and unknown, make a plan, and have the courage to take a smart risk in pursuit of a goal that brings personal fulfillment and adds value to others. It’s what a critical doer would…do!