When was the last time you really took a chance and tried something significant with no guarantee of success? Maybe it was related to your career. Perhaps it was taking a huge step in a relationship with someone. It might have involved financial risk or a shift in educational direction or geographic location. The last big chance you took might have been physically risky or mentally challenging beyond your comfort zone or embracing some belief you had previously resisted for years. Whatever comes to mind from your history of taking chances, how long has it been since you took such a leap? How did it work out?
Most of us have no interest in living in a constant state of uncertainty, moving from one major risky move to another day in and day out. The emotional toll of that kind of constant behavior would be too great, not to mention the other likely costs when several risks don’t work out positively. But if we aren’t careful, we can easily talk ourselves out of taking chances that we, in fact, ought to take.
Here’s an example of a chance I took recently…
As a community manager for a company’s enterprise social network (ESN), I value interacting with and learning from those in other companies who share similar responsibilities and interests. I belong to different organizations that allow me to be in touch with many social media professionals who share similar passions. However, earlier this summer I realized that there was no ongoing, regular opportunity for those of us responsible for ESNs to get together and share ESN-specific expertise. There are such opportunities for those who may use a particular vendor for their ESN, but not one vendor-neutral frequent gathering place for all in the field regardless of industry, vendor used or geographic location.
So I did my homework, talked with a few trusted colleagues, and then decided to launch the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat in early September. I purchased relevant Web domain names, reserved the Twitter handle @ESNchat, started planning initial discussion topics, and began promoting it through various avenues. I felt like I had a decent idea, planned it out and tried my best to get it off the ground, but there was a giant unknown – would anyone actually show up and take part? Would it be a giant bust that left egg on my face for failing miserably and publicly?
When the first chat day rolled around and the time was getting close, I was more nervous than I recall about any other situation in recent memory. Ask me to speak to hundreds or thousands of people at a time and I’ll do it without a care in the world. Put me on live TV teaching or preaching and I’m as comfortable as chatting with friends in my living room. But in the moments before launching that Twitter chat with an unknown and possibly nonexistent audience, my stomach was in knots.
Fortunately, about 25 wonderful people showed up that first week and we’ve had great chats weekly since then. I have developed some new relationships with people across several continents from various industries as a result. Other opportunities to speak or be interviewed for articles have come to pass through connections made and I expect far more of those kinds of things in the months to come. In fact, I’m thinking that 2014 may need to be the year that I finally write a book on the subject or at least collaborate with others to write one together to advance the field of enterprise social networking.
So there’s my example of a business-related chance that I took a couple of months ago that is turning out well. I have no idea where it will go in the months and years ahead, but I’m hopeful that the chance I took makes a positive difference in the field over time, regardless of whether I may personally benefit from it or not.
As you’ve been reading this, perhaps you’ve had one or two chances you’ve been considering taking come to mind. They are surely very different than the one I described above, but they are potentially significant for you. So what will you do? Will you take a chance and act on the idea?
Sure, it’s possible that things might not turn out the way you wish. Taking the chance may cost you. But not taking chances is also costly. The minimum price you pay for avoiding risk is the uncertainty of never knowing whether you would have succeeded or not. The actual cost may be far greater.
I don’t know anything about the chances you’re considering taking or whether you should do so or not. I suspect, though, that a lot of people reading this will do more than just satisfy an urge or random curiosity by taking a chance they’re considering. It may well be that taking that risk is exactly what you need to change an important part of your life forever.
I’m not suggesting you be flippant, fail to consider the possible cost or fail to plan. I’m just encouraging you to consider taking a chance at something important to you even in the face of uncertainty. I suspect many (and maybe most) of life’s greatest adventures and accomplishments begin that way.