The world is still reeling from the death of Steve Jobs, the Apple, Inc. co-founder and former CEO. His creativity and innovation has been compared to Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci.
On the other hand, descriptions of his personal character range from persuasive and charismatic to erratic and temperamental.
No matter what your view, you must agree that Steve Jobs brought us into the world of personal computing, iPhones and iPads. In addition, he has left us with at least four powerful personal messages that can guide our life and career. These messages are; "love what you do," "don't waste your time living someone else's life," "don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice" and "you can't connect the dots going forward, you can only connect them looking backwards."
In my mind, Steve Jobs has provided us with some profound truisms for life success. His message clearly suggests that to gain personal and professional life success, each of us has to take risks. What about you? What risks are you prepared to take? How do you go about taking risks in your career?
Risk is all about uncertainty and ambiguity; it's about travelling in a certain direction even though you don't know if the route will get you to where you want to be. Risk is all about taking a chance that an action you take in your life or career will turn out for the best.
Risk also has a number of elements to it. For instance, in some cases there may be physical risks and danger. In other jobs, the risks may be emotional.
For instance, social workers may become so intertwined with their clients that they are not able to separate their professional duties. Finally, risk may also have financial implications.
A career risk typically includes actions such as starting a new job with a new organization, moving to another location to accept a job, accepting a promotion, or enrolling in a college or a university program. People who write books are taking a chance that people will want to read what they say. People who quit their current job to start a business are also taking a career risk.
Career risk-takers aren't simply willing to take a leap of faith, they are self-confident and don't let criticism dampen their enthusiasm. They are flexible and willing to try new things. They see obstacles and challenges as opportunities and are not easily discouraged. Risk-takers are good problem solvers who refuse to be overwhelmed by the bigger issues, but rather they are able to dissect these issues and work through each one step by step. Risk-takers do their homework -- they examine the pros and cons of each situation, they examine the consequences of failure and they create fall-back strategies. Finally, risk takers are always pro-active in moving their life and career forward.
On the other hand, risk-averse individuals will rarely get started. Since they perceive risk from the point of view of danger and/or loss, these individuals hesitate and procrastinate. They may in fact take a step forward but rarely do they go through with their initial goal. They are security conscious and afraid of change. In fact, on occasion a risk averse person will often stay in a bad career situation rather than take the risk of a self-initiated change. Unfortunately, these individuals will bypass many exciting opportunities in their lifetime.
In our globalized and fast-paced world, I believe that risk taking is going to play an even more important part in our future success. What then can be done to develop a sense of security and control as one enters the realm of risk taking? The following tips may provide some guidance.
Thoroughly prepare your goals and objectives -- Take time to research and secure accurate information to help you effectively set your goals and objectives. Examine options available to you and prioritize them.
Review potential challenges -- Every goal will have its challenges as the goal to success is rarely a straight line. Identify and assess the potential barriers and obstacles and develop a plan to overcome them.
Plan for options -- If your specific goal is not readily attainable, consider what can be done to build upon other opportunities that will lead you toward the goal, but perhaps through a broader path.
Assess your stamina -- Take time to determine what you are willing to put into your goal. Do you have the time, energy and resources to carry out your goal? Is your goal realistic and attainable?
Identify your fears and deal with them -- Taking risks is all about giving up control for a short time as you are trying out a new behaviour, skill or opportunity. This sense of loss creates anxiety. These feelings are natural so don't let them hold you back.
Compartmentalize the risk -- Tackle risk from a problem-solving perspective. Identify the various elements of the risk, examine the challenge, obstacles and strategies and create concrete steps with visible and concrete milestones. This concreteness provides security and reduces personal fear.
Keep a journal -- Risk-related fear is an emotional reaction, one that might create surprise as you progress in your journey. Keep a daily journal. Describe your emotions and then assess your notes for repetitive themes. Examine these themes closely and ask yourself: How can these issues be overcome?
Reflect on your life -- If you continue to feel reluctance toward risks, take time to examine your personal "life-line" and identify those times when you have indeed taken a risk over the course of your career. What were these risks and how did you overcome them? Count up the variety of successes in your career -- you will surprise yourself.
Be flexible -- Don't be too hard on yourself if you didn't achieve your goal immediately or if you misjudged a risk. For instance, if you were unsuccessful in an interview, pat yourself on the back for being a short-listed candidate. Identify what you learned from each experience and add this to your repertoire. Be persistent and stay the course toward your goal.
Risk is a part of our life, there is no way around it. Ensuring you are always doing what you love to do is a risk. Focusing on creating your own dreams and refusing to live someone else's life means taking a risk. Yes, it takes stamina and courage, but as Steve Jobs said, you can't connect the dots going forward, you can only connect them looking backwards." Go for it!
Source: Steve Jobs: Stanford commencement address, June 2005, John Naughton, The Observer, Oct 9, 2011.
Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, is president of Legacy Bowes Group and vice-president of Waterhouse Executive Search Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org