Don't be a risk taker. Ever.
If there's one adage I heard before I even knew what an entrepreneur was, it's this:
With big risk comes big rewards
It's usually attributed to the pursuits of entrepreneurs that took brave, ambitious, sometimes "crazy" risks to become successful.
- Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to create billion-dollar companies, Microsoft and Facebook.
- Kevin Feige took a risk on Ironman (2008), banking that it would be the gateway into an intricately woven series of films, known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak went against anyone's advice to pioneer Apple from a garage.
All true. All incredible. All inspiring. But there's another lesson here that is overlooked.
These special few were not huge risk takers, as much as they were risk mitigators.
Each knew that to bring their ambition to fruition, they had to off-load the potential downside of failure.
They took the risk out of risk-taking.
And this was by doing something risky, unheard of, or crazy. They did it by creating a quality product while doing something else to support them.
- When Bill Gates sold a new software program as a sophomore, he waited an entire year before leaving school. He didn't drop out, but went an entire year before applying for leave and allowing his parents to bankroll him.
- After creating the Apple computer, Steve Wozniak started the company with Steve Jobs in 1976, but continued working full time in his engineering job at Hewlett-Packard until 1977.
- After T.S Eliot produced his landmark work, The Waste Land, he kept his London bank job for three years. He rejected the idea of professional risk.
- Grammy winner John Legend released his first album in 2000 but kept working as a management consultant until 2002, preparing Powerpoint presentations at night.
- Selma Director Ava DuVernay made her first three films while working in her day job as a publicist, only pursuing filmmaking full time after working at it for four years.
- Famed horror writer Stephen King worked as a teacher, janitor, and gas station attendant for seven years after writing his first story. He only quit after selling his first novel, Carrie.
- Dilbert author Scott Adams worked at Pacific Bell for seven years after his first comic strip hit newspapers.
So debunk the notion that giant risks equate to massive successes. The ones that take untested risks often fail.
If you're risk averse and have doubts about your business ideas, it's likely they will be built to last.
If you're a gambler that doesn't care about the odds, your company will crumble in time.
It's the one that have their eyes open, their feet to the ground, that often succeed beyond their expectations.