Molly Gordon

Article Summary:

Risk in business can and should be a great teacher.

Risk In Business

Risk is woven in to the fabric of every business venture. So is denial. I've often thought that no one would start a business if they truly understood the risk involved or the choices that would be required in order for them to survive, let alone thrive. Fortunately, every risk and choice in life and in business can be met and measured not only in terms of material outcomes but also with respect to the opportunity to learn and grow. This ensures that, with the right attitude and support, business can be a great teacher.

But do we need such a teacher? Why learn and grow? It appears that evolution itself insists that we do so. Survival requires that we not be blinkered by near term success. Around every corner lurks the possibility of being wiped out by a critter more cleverly adapted to the emergent world. As Helen Keller observed, "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

Still, the realization that risk is inherent in life sheds little light on the complex matter of making meaning from the risks we choose. There is more to it than choosing between daring adventure and emptiness, more even than sussing out which risks are likely to pay off. For me, the value of risk is in its potent, if not always polite, invitation to increased self-awareness. The pressure cooker of risk seems to extract the essence of character, revealing strengths and weaknesses in their purest forms. Seeing the truth about ourselves, in turn, can pay dividends on many levels, increasing mental, emotional, spiritual, and even material wellbeing.

But here we need to be careful. While it has been my experience that there is a link between spiritual and material well being, it is not a link forged by fairy dust, nor was it forged by a judgmental God to reward the good and punish the wicked. Rather, it seems to me, the link has to do with the interplay among self-efficacy, self-awareness, and awareness of one's relationship to the mystery at the center of existence. Something of all that, I think, is what Dame Julian of Norwich experienced when she wrote, "All is well, and all manner of things be well."

Doing business places us at the intersection of intention, instinct, choice, and desire. In the marketplace, our hopes and fears meet the hopes and fears of the world. In these intersections, we risk profit and loss on every level. In these intersections, our insides and our outsides either match or they do not. If we have the fortitude to look steadily at the truth about our choices, we will learn much about ourselves. With time, attention, and some manner of faith to guide and sustain us, we may experience increased willingness and capacity to sense into Life's unfolding so that we can glide with apparent effortlessness into our unique role in the cosmic dance.

It's in slipping into this unique role that we experience true prosperity. Then, for a moment, and in spite of all the effort that the effortless dance required, we know ourselves to be in the right place at the right time. And we know this not merely because things are going our way, but because we have found a still point within ourselves that orients us in the turbulent tumble of ongoing events. In that moment we thrive beyond all doubt.

But do such moments deliver lasting, practical, or observable benefit? Research and anecdotal evidence say yes. There is mounting evidence that experiences of profound wellbeing produce measurable changes physiology, attitudes, relationships. Mentally and emotionally these changes may be expressed as improvements in confidence, judgment, resilience, resourcefulness, clarity, conviction, and discernment. Physically, they may produce greater stamina and a stronger but less reactive immune system.

I hope you will weigh the risks you face in terms of the opportunity to know yourself as well as the probable impact on your material wellbeing. As Andre Gide observed, "One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."

Molly Gordon, MCC, is a leading figure in business and personal growth coaching, writer, workshop leader, frequent presenter at live and virtual events worldwide, and an acknowledged expert on niche marketing. Join 12,000 readers of her Authentic Promotion´┐Ż ezine to learn how to grow your strong business while you feed your soul, and receive a free 31-page guide, "Principles of Authentic Promotion."

Read all advice by Molly Gordon; Find more Entrepreneur experts

More advice on Entrepreneur
» Creating Multiple Streams of Income
» Should You Be Changing Your Business Model?
» all Entrepreneur articles