Risk Taking and Success Go Hand in Hand

Happy Thursday from Reno!

Well, for those of you who didn’t get the memo, apparently there is a light dusting of snow in the mountains. Sigh… I feel like this annual habit seems to come earlier and earlier each year.

Anyways, as many of you have heard, Steve Jobs died yesterday at the age of 56. As the co-founding brainchild of Apple, he certainly had what the world would consider a “successful life” and turned technology upside down with products such as the Mac, iPod, iTunes, iPad, etc. What makes people like him great? They aren’t afraid to take risks, and they understand the value of trying, trying, and trying again until you get it right, and a slight inborn dose of genius doesn’t hurt…

One of the many wonderful things about my current position is that I can take risks (within reason) and the benefits of success are all the more sweet because it directly impacts student learning and activities at the University of Nevada!

I recently received a book that was right up my alley. Business Lessons from the Edge: Learn How Extreme Athletes Use Intelligent Risk Taking to Succeed in Business is a solid narrative of how top executives in business use intelligent and calculated “risky decisions” to ride the edge of sanity while excelling in business. Not only are they killer in the boardroom, but they also tend to go on fun adventures (not unlike myself) as a real-life example of their risk filled decisions. Note: the picture below doesn’t have a specific purpose, it’s just bad-ass…

As a risk taker myself, I love anytime business or professional success is compared to the activities that I enjoy and live for. Skydiving, white water rafting, ultra-endurance awesomeness, snowboarding, triathlon, weight lifting… All of these activities require some type of risk to be taken but provide wonderful benefits when done correctly.

Here’s my personal approach to risk taking:

  1. Have a goal – as stated in many of my blogs, you have to keep the goal in mind. The quickest way to derail your success is to take unnecessary risks (or poorly calculated ones). You can’t be a good triathlete without focusing on swimming, biking and running, just like you can’t be a good CEO without practicing good management with your employees.
  2. Improve your skillsets – My greatest recent success at work has been implementing a series of tablets that all talk to each other via a shared database. At the onset of the project, I was a decent database programmer but lacked the skills to create a database that is shared via a network to any device (mobile or desktop), let alone to have that data pushed to the device without being stored locally. What an awesome feeling it was yesterday to fire up one of my tablets and connect to a database remotely! Constant learning is the golden-brick road to success!
  3. Know when to ask for help – I would never in a million years attempt an Ironman without receiving proper coaching, just like I would never try to present at a national technology conference without assistance from my colleagues and boss. It’s ok to admit that you don’t know something, but knowing when to seek help is even more valuable!
  4. Put yourself out there – Perhaps the greatest challenge for me is still putting myself out there. My job allows me to think outside the box, so it’s relatively easy to go into a brainstorming session and come out with a rather epic semester battle plan for the next new project. However, it takes a lot of practice to be genuine with everyone and share how you’re feeling. Success in business is closely linked with you being yourself. Don’t put a facade on to try and “people please” because it won’t work. You can’t expect to succeed with colleagues when you can’t even be yourself.

Next time you try and shy away from risk taking, remember that intelligent risky decisions can often times lead to unforeseen and absolutely amazing benefits! Take a chance, put an idea out there, admit you messed up. Rinse and repeat. Eventually you’ll hit the nail on the head! Go ahead and ask that girl you met at Aces out for coffee… you never know where it may lead ;-)

What is your proudest “risk taking” moment that lead to an incredible success?



  1. before you can be yourself you have to know yourself, and then you can work on being a better self, that drive to be better will inspire others around you to do the same, thus being the leader most desire to be.

    1. Hey Margo,

      Definitely! It’s not easy getting to know yourself let alone showing that side of yourself to other people. I feel like grad school will bring out the best in us both :-)

  2. Having a goal is important, but sometimes it’s important to just let lose and fly by the seat of your pants! All work and no play makes Russell and dull boy! I know you’ll never achieve a goal if you aren’t focused on it, but you’ll also never have fun if it’s all you have your sights on.

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