Posts tagged with ‘risk’

19 nov

Step Out of Your Box

MikeRobbinsNewOne of our greatest sources of authentic power in life comes from our willingness and ability to act – especially in the face of obstacles and fear. To be truly successful and fulfilled, we must challenge ourselves to take bold and courageous actions and to go for what we want. Legendary author Ray Bradbury said, “First you jump off the cliff and then you build your wings on the way down.”

In the summer of 1998 I was in the midst of a major life transition. I’d blown out my pitching arm a little over a year earlier and had gotten released by the Kansas City Royals that March. I was home in Oakland, CA collecting workers comp insurance (and not working), recovering from simultaneous elbow and shoulder surgery that I’d had at the start of that summer, reeling from what was sure to be the end of my dream of becoming a Major League baseball player (even after my arm rehab was completed), and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Throughout that spring and summer, I read numerous self help books that inspired me – both by what I learned from them personally and also by the idea of being able to write books like that and help people myself. I would wander into bookstores and find myself drawn to the personal development section – both to look for new books for me to read and also because I had a deep yearning to be involved in that world myself.

Given my age at the time, twenty-four, my lack of experience, and the fact that I had no idea how one would even begin a career as a self-help author and motivational speaker, I felt discouraged, scared, and confused. Being an author and a speaker one day seemed like a pipe-dream. And, in the weeks and months ahead I knew I’d need to make some important decisions about what to do and what specific steps to take as I ventured out into the “real world” for the very first time.

On July 11th, 1998 I had a conversation on the phone with my Uncle Steve that as I look back on it now, was a pivotal moment in the course of my life and my work. That day on the phone, I shared with him some of my deepest fears, dreams, confusion, and desires for my life and my future. I told him that I thought I wanted to be an author and speaker who could help and inspire people, but that I didn’t know how to do that, where to start, or what I could do in my life right away that would lead me in that direction.

Steve challenged me and said, “For you to do this Mike, you’re going to have to ’step out’ and be bold in your life. It’s not a one-time thing; it’s a day-by-day process. The question to ask yourself today and every day is, ‘What am I willing to do today to step out in life’?”

This question that Steve asked me, while simple to understand, challenged me to my core – both inspiring me and scaring me at the same time. I wasn’t sure how to answer that question at the time, but thought about it quite a bit.

I got a job that fall working for a dot-com, but my dream of writing, speaking, leading workshops, and coaching people stayed with me. Over those next few years, Steve would send me notes and post cards from time to time with just the words “Step Out” on them. It became a mantra for me.

Even though I knew the job I had selling internet advertising was not my “calling,” I chose to be grateful for what I was learning and the money I was making. At the same time I began to look outside of my current job for places where I could “step out” towards my deeper passion and dream of helping people. I did this in as many ways as I could – taking workshops, volunteering, reaching out to established authors, speakers, and coaches, talking to people about my goals and dreams, reading books, and much more.

When I got laid off from my dot-com in the middle of 2000 – Steve’s question reverberated within me deeply. I knew that the bold thing for me to do at that point, even though I still didn’t have a clue about how to go about it, was to “step out” of my “box,” take a huge leap, and do what I could to become a speaker, coach, and author.

It wasn’t easy and there were many times I wanted to quit – but I kept challenging myself to be bold and to go for it, even when I didn’t think I could. It took me six months from the time I got laid off to launch my speaking and coaching business, another two or three years before I was able to establish myself in any significant way, and seven years before I published my first book.

Stepping out of our own “box” is essential to living an authentic and fulfilled life. We often don’t think we’re “ready,” we may not know exactly what we’re supposed to do, and we almost never have a guarantee that things will work out.

Will we get scared? Of course. Will we fail? Most likely, especially at first. As the cliche says, “no risk, no reward.” When we’re willing to put ourselves at risk and go for what we truly want in a bold way, amazing things can happen.

Stepping out of our box in life doesn’t always involve something big like changing careers, moving to a new place, starting a business, ending a relationship, or traveling around the world (although it could). It simply means we’re willing to do, say, or act in a way that is new, different, and/or vulnerable. When we choose to push past our perceived limits and go for it in life – we always grow and learn, regardless of the outcome.

As you do this, make sure to get support, have compassion, and be gentle with yourself in the process. While it can be scary and often counter-intuitive – we’re here to grow, expand, and evolve and one of the most important things we can do in this regard to is to step out of our box in a conscious and bold way!

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info –

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Posted by Mike Robbins on November 19th, 2010 in New Directions, Personal Stories | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , ,

26 sep

How Monkeys, Jam and Fencing Can Help You Make Decisions Quickly and Confidently

RenitaKalhornEquinox Gym has 18 locations in New York City, and I have an all-access pass, which means I can go to any of them. This offers fantastic variety for mixing up my workouts but also means that planning my workouts each week can become a logistical nightmare.

In addition to choosing between my eight or nine regular classes, I have to factor in whether one of my favorite instructors is teaching, travel time to the gym, proximity to a business meeting and whether there are two classes I can take back-to-back — the permutations are mind-boggling. On days that my brain is overloaded, I have been known to waffle over the possibilities until I have no choice but to scramble to the last available class of the day!

This is a pretty typical example, I think, of how our options in the information age have multiplied exponentially. More choice means more decisions: Who and when to marry, when or if to have children, whether to take the overseas job promotion, rent or buy, Mac or PC, sparkling or tap – the sheer volume of decisions we face can be overwhelming, to the point that we can’t decide at all.

Have you heard of the famous jam study? In The Art of Choosing, Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar tells about the experiment she and her research assistants carried out at a local San Francisco supermarket. Posing as reps for Wilkin & Sons, they set up a table where they presented various jams for sampling. Periodically during the day, they switched between offering 24 flavors and six flavors; everyone who stopped by the table was given a $1 coupon.

Now, this wouldn’t be the ‘famous jam study’ if the results had turned out as expected. And in fact, more of the people who had seen the small assortment — 30% — decided to buy jam. Only 3% of those who saw the larger assortment did. Interesting: even with something as basic as jam, people are more likely to buy when there are fewer choices.

Of course, not making a choice is also a decision. But decision by default rarely produces meaningful satisfaction. So, gym quandaries aside, here’s my cheat sheet for making decisions more quickly and confidently:

Determine what’s important to YOU. Too often, we try to make a decision without first getting clear on what we actually want. You may know very little about camera technology and still find yourself standing in front of the store display comparing megapixels, optical zoom, vibration reduction and countless other features that you didn’t even know existed. That’s backwards. First, determine what criteria are important to you (not the manufacturer, not the salesperson), and stop evaluating the ones that aren’t.

Decide and commit fully. Olympic fencer Jason Rogers says: “Indecision weakens your skills. Better to do the wrong thing with 100 percent of your effort than the right thing with 50 percent.” How often do you play it safe rather than going all out? Strong conviction in your decision can very well compensate for any flaws in your reasoning. While a habit of tentative execution — though it may not get you poked in the eye with a saber — will steadily gnaw away at your confidence. As Byron Katie says: “When we try to be safe, we live our lives being very, very careful; and we wind up having no lives.”

Factor in human nature. The collapse of the financial markets in recent years demonstrated, on a large scale, the human propensity to take greater risk to avoid loss than to achieve gain. Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale University, was curious to see if she could trace the roots of our irrational economic behavior and created an experiment in which she taught monkeys to use money and engage in marketplace trading. Turns out, monkeys also demonstrate loss aversion, just like humans. It’s in our genes!

Elsewhere, humans are consistently inaccurate in their assessment of perceived vs. actual risk. As security technologist Bruce Schneier asserts: “People exaggerate spectacular but rare risks and downplay common risks. They worry more about earthquakes than they do about slipping on the bathroom floor, even though the latter kills far more people than the former. Similarly, terrorism causes far more anxiety than common street crime, even though the latter claims many more lives.

The take-home message: Knowing how our evolutionary tendencies can trip us up, we can compensate and consciously make smarter, more rewarding choices.

Make decisions from where you want to be. Consider this: Your best thinking got you where you are now. So if you want to improve an area of your life, you need to make different decisions. To start thinking like the person you want to be, adopt a role model (or two) — someone whose achievements or behavior you admire. When you’re feeling stymied, ask yourself: “What would [my role model] do?”

Make decisions quickly. Face it, you will never have complete information before making a decision. Three things that can make it easier to take the plunge: First, it’s easier to change the direction of a boat that’s already moving – the sooner you take action, the sooner you can course-correct. Second, though no-one enjoys making mistakes, that is where the most valuable learning is. The sooner you screw up, the sooner you know what doesn’t work.

Third, in his TED talk on what really makes us happy, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert explains how, thanks to our “psychological immune system,” we overestimate the effect that events – positive or negative — will have on us. It stands to reason, the consequences of our decisions won’t affect us as long or as much as we think.

The bottom line? Successful people make more decisions.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Renita Kalhorn on September 26th, 2010 in New Directions | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,

11 jun

Are You Willing to Be Uncomfortable?


How comfortable are you with being uncomfortable? I know this may seem like a paradoxical question, but it’s not. In fact, Michelle and I took a workshop this past weekend where they emphasized the importance of being uncomfortable – related to expanding our growth, success, fulfillment, and more.

Over the past few days I’ve been taking some real inventory of my own life and looking at how willing (or unwilling) I am to be uncomfortable myself. I notice that in certain areas of my life, I’m quite willing to be uncomfortable; while in others, not so much.

There seems to be a direct relationship between my willingness to be uncomfortable and how much excitement, creativity, and abundance I experience in a particular area of my life (both now and in the past). In other words, the more willing I am to be uncomfortable, the more I find myself growing, accomplishing, and transforming. On the flip side, the less willing I am to be uncomfortable, the more stress, resignation, and suffering I experience.

Our egos are highly trained at keeping us “safe” and making sure we avoid any and all “risks.” However, it’s difficult (if not impossible) for us to take our lives, our work, and our relationships to where we truly want them to be if we’re not willing to be uncomfortable in the process.

Being uncomfortable doesn’t necessarily mean that things have to be overly painful, dramatic, or challenging (although sometimes they will). When we’re uncomfortable it’s usually because we’re doing or saying something new, we have something important at stake, or we’re taking an essential risk. These are all beautiful and critical aspects of life and growth. Think of the most important areas of your life, your work, and your relationships – I bet there were and still are elements of these important things that are uncomfortable for you.

When we’re willing to be uncomfortable, we lean into our fear, try new things, and go for it in a bold and authentic way. It doesn’t mean we know exactly what we’re doing (in many cases we won’t). It also doesn’t mean we won’t fail (which, of course, we will at times).

We all have the capacity to be uncomfortable – we’ve been doing it our entire life (learning to walk, talk, ride a bike, drive a car, do our work, and so much more). However, instead of trying to “survive” the uncomfortable aspects of life – what if we embraced them, acknowledged ourselves for our willingness, and even sought out new, unique, and growth-inducing ways to make ourselves uncomfortable consciously?

Here are a few things you can think about and do to enhance your own willingness to be uncomfortable.

1) Take inventory of your life. Where are you willing to be uncomfortable and where are you not? The more honest you can be with yourself about your own willingness (or lack thereof), the more able you’ll be to make some important adjustments and changes. Be authentic and compassionate with yourself as you make this inquiry.

2) Identify your fears. There is always a specific fear (or a set of fears) that exists underneath all of our resistance. When we’re not willing to be uncomfortable, it’s usually because we’re scared. If we can admit, own, and express our fears in an honest and vulnerable way, we can liberate ourselves from their negative grip.

3) Create support and accountability around you. The best way I know of to challenge ourselves and step out of our comfort zone, is to elicit the support of others and make sure we get them to hold us accountable. There may be important things for you to do – that you know will take your life, work, and relationships to the next level – but they seem intimidating (i.e. uncomfortable). Getting people you trust and respect to help you, coach you, and push you is one of the best ways to make it happen – even and especially if you’re not sure how, or worried you can’t do it.

Being uncomfortable is, well, uncomfortable. But, it’s one of the most important things for us to embrace if we want to live a life of real meaning, purpose, and passion.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info –

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Mike Robbins on June 11th, 2010 in General, New Directions | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , ,