A number of things I’ve come across recently have given me reason to consider the balance of risks and rewards.
Scrolling through Facebook in August, I came across a trailer for a documentary about Alex Honnold’s trek up El Capitan. The movie, “Free Solo” chronicles the effort and drama behind the climber’s successful climb of the granite wall without ropes.
As one person in the trailer is quoted as saying, “People who know a little bit about climbing are like, oh he’s totally safe. Then people who really know exactly what he’s doing are freaked out.” So in this case, a little bit of ignorance is bliss.
But, Honnold decided to climb the massive wall and risk it all. Why? Because if he didn’t try it, he’d regret it. Subjects of the film say when Honnold is free soloing, he feels the most alive. He’s willing to risk his life to keep pushing the limits. The risk was great, but so was the reward. He’s the only person to have accomplished that feat.
Other hobbies carry risks with them as well. Sports like football include the risk of concussions. Bicycle riding includes the risk of falling and crashing. Nearly every cowboy has been bucked off an animal at one point or another. And, as I was reminded this week, motorcycle riding can lead to life-threatening injuries.
Even things like creating art come with risks. The risk of rejection, intense criticism and embarrassment are all excuses some might use to avoid undertaking new challenges.
But without the risks some were willing to take, we wouldn’t have works of art like Picasso’s “Starry Night” or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Sure, not all risks became famous works of art, but each creator had a chance to put it all on the line.
In the office, and in discussions with other professionals in the community, risk and reward pop up frequently in conversations. While the risk isn’t as intense as the climber heading up El Capitan, some days it certainly feels that way. After all, business leaders are responsible not only for their own livelihood, but the livelihoods of all of their staff members.
But, if business leaders don’t take any risks, then nothing will be gained. As I’ve repeated to others around me, sometimes the biggest risk is taking no risk at all. So while the reward may be small, or you may not reap a reward every time you step out on a limb, the chance is often still worth taking.