In business–and in large part, my entire life–I have operated largely from trial and error. Even if an idea seems far-fetched or odd, I’ll take the risk, try it out, and see where it goes. One of the cornerstone questions that I always ask myself when considering a risk, is what do I have to lose? As long as my answer doesn’t pose detrimental outcomes, I’ll go for it. It can seem risky to step outside of what’s normal and what’s comfortable, but oftentimes, that’s when great things happen. You may not be successful the first or even second go around, but the risk of allowing your idea the freedom to be realized can really pay off.
“What do I have to lose?”
A friend of mine recently shared some great news—he got a job offer! In any instance, this is exciting news, but what made this even more of a celebration is that for quite some time, he had been trying to change fields from the service industry into programming. Breaking into a new field can be tough; working full time while trying to break into a new field can be really tough. But he kept at it. He hustled after the traditional 9-5 work hours and on the weekends to learn as much as he could about programming. This persistence led to a few contracting jobs which is great experience for those considering entering into a new industry.
At the beginning of 2020, he decided that he needed to make the career shift and started applying to a variety of full-time programming positions. Unfortunately, the position that he had landed at the beginning of the year was cut short when the stay at home orders were put into effect and businesses started to close. He lost his job. But rather than accepting this as defeat, he took this unfortunate situation and shifted his perspective to the set back being a wonderful opportunity. He now had more time to apply for jobs, reach out to companies that he wanted to work for, and connect with individuals that he admired. He asked potential mentors to meet for coffee to learn how they entered into their respective fields; he genuinely wanted to learn from these individuals. This was risky. He had to reach out to people he didn’t know, invite them to meet, and hope that they would grant him some of their time.
Then, during a pandemic, when the national unemployment rate only continues to increase week by week, he got another job offer! His hustle was continuing to pay off. Did all of those connections land him a job? No. But he was consistent, and persistent, and he used the loss of his initial job as an opportunity to prepare himself for what was to come. He kept at it even when discouragement was very present. And with each interview and conversation, he was able to do two things: show how he added value, and stretch himself out of his personal comfort zone.
Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone
When I first started LW Branding, I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. It wasn’t always about landing a new client, but rather, it was about challenging myself to be creative, stretch my limits, and learn as much as I could. Without fail, I always made it a point to ask myself the important question, what do I have to lose?
It’s so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day rhythms of life that we forget to take time to see opportunities. Sometimes these opportunities present themselves as odd, off-the-wall ideas that pop into your mind. In 2015, I sent Dallas Mavericks center and forward, Kristaps Porzingis, a pair of jeans. I don’t know if he ever got them, but I had access to designer jeans and his agent gave me the address, so, off they went. It was an idea that came to mind and I gave it the freedom to see what would happen. You better believe that when I sent those jeans, I was convinced that somehow I would make him my next client. That simple bit of confidence might have actually been the reason that I landed my next meeting, or had the courage to call the next agent. I let that small boost of confidence have its full effect.
Even if your wild idea doesn’t land you a job offer or a new client, if it’s done as your authentic self, it can have a lasting impression. Maybe you won’t get that client immediately, but in a few months when they’re looking for someone, they may very well remember you. Effort that takes place in the current moment–even if nothing comes of it immediately–can continue to have future impact; don’t underestimate this.
Embracing the Risk
Right now is a weird time for everyone, but even in the midst of a pandemic, try new things and see what kind of obscure ideas work. Send some jeans, maybe some flowers, cupcakes from a local bakery, or simply a handwritten note. Reach out to someone you’ve admired, and ask them for a virtual conversation about their career path. It may be a Zoom-coffee meetup instead of sitting down together at an actual coffee shop, but right now, most people have some extra time to give. Stretch yourself to do things that the average person is too lazy or too uninspired to do. It can be risky to send that email, to reach out to someone in their DMs, or to send a pair of jeans to an NBA player, but ask yourself: what do I have to lose? One final point. Make sure that when you do take that high risk, you actually believe that it’s going to lead to that higher reward. Let this momentum propel you forward, and be prepared for whatever kind of unexpected opportunities may present themselves.
“What do I have to lose?”
Nothing is more inspiring than hearing about the limbs that others have walked out onto, and the successes–and even set backs–that have taken place. Stories like this are powerful promoters of action. Tell me – what risks have you taken that have paid off? I would love, and be honored to hear.