I was talking with a friend earlier today about risks and rewards. She’s more conservative than I am about risks, so she sometimes has trouble letting herself mentally commit to something risky — especially when the reward is something she really wants.
The conversation reminded me of a story I’d like to share with you.
…I attended a lecture being given by a man who had made millions of dollars speculating in commodities. Along with several hundred other people, I had paid five dollars to hear how to make a fortune in the commodities market using the system developed by this highly successful trader.
The air in the packed meeting room was charged with excitement. We all felt as if we were being let in on a valuable secret that would make us all rich. By the middle of the lecture, the speaker had built up a full head of steam, explaining his charts, talking about margins and contracts and the different kinds of orders he placed with his broker.
Suddenly a spectator near the back of the large room stood up and said, “Hey, wait a minute. From what I can see, all this speculation is very risky business. Don’t you realize that you can lose every penny you have — and then some?”
The millionaire responded without hesitating. “Why, yes. I certainly do realize that.”
“Then why do you continue to speculate.”
“I don’t know exactly why,” the lecturer answered. “I just know I’m willing to take the risk.”
“Well, I’m not,” the spectator snapped.
“The rich man smiled, paused a moment, and said, “That might be why I’m giving this lecture and you’re paying for it.” The audience exploded with laughter as the spectator blushed and sat down. He didn’t ask another question that evening.
I’m not trying to get you to consider speculating in commodities. (In fact, straight speculation in commodities tends to be disastrous.) But I am suggesting that most of us are too scared to take reasonable chances to get what we want. What’s more, we’re most afraid of taking chances when it comes to the things we most desperately need.
It’s scary to take risks. It’s sometimes scary to think that we might be worthy of the things we most want and need in life. We might easily take a sudden and momentary risk at the wheel of a car to shave 15 seconds off of an arrival time when we’re running late, but it’s much harder to take emotional and psychological risks that can allow us to attain the things that matter most to us, whether it’s love or other important life goals.
I haven’t always been willing to take risks. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I have a long history as a closet coward. I know that the chances I’m willing to take right now might not all pay off. I might lose everything. As the commodities speculator said, “I just know I’m willing to take the risk,” because some potential payoffs are worth risking everything for.
Note: The story comes from Mike Hernacki’s book, “The Ultimate Secret to Getting Absolutely Everything You Want.”