Do you have a Risk-Ready or Risk-Averse Mindset?

Do you have a Risk-Ready or Risk-Averse Mindset?


While writing Stop Playing Safe I interviewed numerous business leaders and entrepreneurs for their insights about why courage—action in the presence of fear, doubt, uncertainty and risk—is important to success. In the process, I heard many tales of boldness, failure, resilience, perseverance and success.

One of the people I spoke to was Maria Eitel, CEO of the Nike Foundation. Maria shared with me that throughout her career she never let her fear of being sacked get in the way of doing what she felt was right. She said this served her well, because it meant she never shied from putting forward an opinion that might ruffle feathers, holding people accountable even when she had no direct authority to do so, or sticking her neck out to try something new. She was always acutely aware of the risks, but she embraced them as essential to her peace of mind and success, even if they didn’t always produce the results she wanted.

It was stories like Maria’s that inspired me to write about the importance of cultivating a ‘risk-ready’ mindset in Stop Playing Safe. The term ‘mindset’ refers to the overarching approach we bring to our challenges, opportunities and lives, and was popularized by Carol Dweck, a professor from Stanford University, whose book Mindset explored the concept in depth.

Dweck’s research led her to believe a ‘growth mindset’ is essential to success in sports, business and life, and that its opposite, a ‘fixed mindset,’ stifles our ability to adapt and thrive. Of course, having a growth mindset takes courage because it hinges on our willingness to let go the familiarity of the old for the uncertainty of the new, trying things that offer no guarantee of success, and becoming vulnerable to making mistakes, losing face or simply not having what it takes to succeed.

I believe that there are two fundamental mindsets that distinguish those who create rewarding careers and lives (despite obstacles and challenges) from those who don’t. They are the:

  • Risk-Averse Mindset which views risk as something to avoid wherever possible
  • Risk-Ready Mindset which views risk as crucial to every worthwhile endeavor

The first is driven by fear of what we might lose; the other by inspiration of what we can gain.


Yesterday I did an interview on Australia’s morning show Sunrise where I shared why we need to “Rethink Risk” in our daily lives. The main point I wanted to convey is that in order to accomplish what we are capable of doing, to develop the quality relationships we want, and make the changes that inspire us throughout our lives, we have to become vulnerable to things that we fear. In other words, we have to risk putting our egos on the line, risk rejection, confrontation, messing up, and missing out on things of value because something more important is at stake.

My own experiences have taught me that when we’re willing to step outside our emotional comfort zone, and become vulnerable to what we fear, we discover that most of our fears are either exaggerated or unfounded, and that we are far braver than we thought ourselves to be. Not only that, whole new worlds of opportunity open up in the process.

So let me ask you, where is your unwillingness to take a risk getting in the way of making a change, or taking on a challenge, or achieving a goal that is really important to you? Just imagine the difference it would make in your life five years from now if today, right now, you made the brave decision to embrace a Risk-Ready Mindset.

Live Boldly and, while you’re at it, please share your comments and experiences on embracing risk on my blog.