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How to Take Smart Risks

Let me tell you a story you might find familiar.

When I was 14, I could choose which high school I want to go to. At the time, I lived in a smaller town near the country’s capital, but I could be enrolled in any school in the capital itself. Without even considering other options, I opted for the school literally across the road from where I lived at the time. It was a decent school, there was no need to travel, and I already knew most of the people going there.

I thought of these things as benefits. But during my first year there, I realized that I had made the wrong choice.

I mean, it was nothing more than a decent school, there was no need to travel, and I already knew most of the people there. There was nothing new or interesting about it. There was no way for me to grow as a person or improve in any significant way. Why the hell did I choose this place?

The next year I transferred to a different school in the capital. My new school was more demanding, further away, and I didn’t know anybody when I arrived. My grades took a downwards spiral, teachers didn’t particularly like me, and I was one of the few people who were from out of town.

At first, these things seemed like unnecessary complications. You know, just things making my life harder.

Over time, I found out that these challenges — distance, difficulty, confusion — were actually the benefits. In my hometown, I was a familiar face. There was no need to make new friends or impress the teachers; hence, no need to improve. In my new school, I had to start all over again. Getting good grades required twice the effort. Meeting people required opening up and becoming social. Instead of being a sophomore, I was like a freshman thrown to the wolves once again.

In comparison, this may seem like a bad choice. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The biggest obstacle in taking risks

The biggest fear associated with any risk is failure. The possibility of losing money, being humiliated, or making the wrong choice is enough to make us say: “Uhm, sure, I’d rather just stay where I am”.

What if you could always take risks, but never fail? Imagine that, all of those things you fear doing, suddenly didn’t have a downside. Imagine that, every time you wanted to go for something — a better job, a new relationship, or a business idea — you would never feel pressured by the fear of things not working out.

Seriously, think about it. Would you still make the same choices you make today?

The thing about failure is that people view it as black or white. If you don’t fulfill your initial plan to the T, exactly as you imagined everything, down to the exact specifics, you will think you have “failed“. And sure, if you view things like that, you did fail.

However, try looking at it like this: have you gathered new skills or experiences along the way? Have you learned something new? Were you forced to come out of your shell and fight for survival?

Nobody who takes risks can do so safely.

Even if your initial plan failed, you still got something out of it. And chances are that you are going to use that newly-gathered mindset, skills, or experience in the future — to create something even better. Eventually, most people do. They just never realize how all of the times they “failed” in the past influenced their success today.

The more smart risks you take, the more you learn

If things don’t go according to plan, don’t sulk or consider yourself a failure. Instead, look at the situations you encounter as a chance to do better next time. You are going to keep failing and there’s no way around it. You’re going to keep getting hit, but the only thing that matters in life is how many failures you can take and keep going.

Take my story from above for example.

Hearing how I transferred to a more demanding school, most of my older friends believed I made a stupid decision. I was forced to adapt so I realized what I was doing wrong and quickly improved my grades. I realized that I cannot allow myself to be as introverted, so I forced myself to open up. People who branded me a loser for failing are people who never take chances. They are those who constantly complain and never try hard at anything. Others, who persist through constant failures and continually take risks, are the ones regarded by the common folk as “successful” in the long-run.

By my graduation, I’ve explored more of the city, made countless new friends, and ended up preparing better for college admissions. My high school experiences in the city forced me to change, which eventually led to starting Mind of Steel. Chances are, if I didn’t take that risk back then, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.

And who knows, maybe this article is going to give you that push you need to make a big change in your life as well.

Life without risk usually sucks

If you keep training your mind to avoid doing little uncomfortable things, it becomes natural to avoid doing bigger uncomfortable things, no matter how rewarding they may be. 

Every time you cross the street, you’re taking a risk of getting hit. Does that mean you’re going to stop crossing roads? Not likely. So why should you stop taking risks when it comes to improving your life?

Of course, I am not talking about gambling and taking blind risks with no planning or strategy. I am talking about smart risks, about aiming for improvement and advancing in life. Without doing this, you will always be stuck in the same place, never really satisfied, and the only person you will be able to blame is yourself.

You can play it safe and hate yourself for it. Stay safe and incomplete. You can also take a risk, and win even if you fail. It all depends on your perception. Risk everything, but risk smartly. Risk everything, but know when to stop.

Most importantly… risk everything. Fail as much as you can. It’s the best way to achieve your goals.

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