The Risky Business of Not Taking Risks

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 05/26/15 •  4 min read

It was my senior year of college, and my whole life I’d been playing it safe.

I chose where to go to school, not because it was necessarily the perfect fit for what I wanted to do – but because it was the safe play.

I lived with my best friend. I was an hour drive from my parents. It was in a small college down where everything was well, easy.

Just a few months from graduation, I was teetering on the edge.

No really, I was standing atop a 200 foot bridge attached to a giant rubberband seconds away from plummeting to my near-certain death.

Looking back this was kind of a pivotal moment for me.  In many ways, it would foreshadow the next 10 years of my life.

A series of swan dives into the unknown, but with every instance, just when I thought I’d hit bottom I’d be swooped back up into the sky in exhilarating form.

Leaving my job gave had it’s ups and downs. Getting engaged, buying a house, starting my golf business, working on the World Domination Summit – all of these things had inherent risks in them – yet where would I be had I not taken them?

I got an email last week from a reader that said this:

“Sean, I’m 31 years old, and unlike you I’m not a risk taker. I’ve been working as an accountant for the last 10 years, and am miserable.

Every year I say “this is going to be the year I do something about it” yet for some reason, every year it just gets harder and harder. I need help. What advice would you give to someone who desperately wants to make a change, but can’t seem to make the leap.” – Andrew

Personally, I think the biggest risk is not taking a risk.

Life isn’t easy, but it becomes a hell of a lot harder when you don’t give yourself permission to work towards the things that will make you happy.

What’s riskier, leaving a job to pursue a lifestyle that will let you do more of your favorite things, or staying in the same position for a decade or two, only to find out years later you haven’t really done anything with your life.

At risk of sounding cliche, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life is the worst case scenario almost never comes to pass. And when it does? It’s probably not as bad as you think.

The exception to this is jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. If the worst case scenario happens, you will probably die – but other than that, it’s not so bad 🙂

So what’s my advice to Andrew?

Ditch the all or nothing attitude. When you’re unhappy and you see the only way out as, in your case, leaving your job, it can seem like a monumental mountain to overcome.

But if you set milestones and plan to do it in say, a years time – all of a sudden it can seem more manageable.

As a bonus, because you’re working in a positive direction, you’ll probably find yourself being less unhappy at work.

So how do you start?

First, start a blog. Even this might seem like a risk, putting yourself out there can be tough, But start it, don’t tell anyone about it, and then as you get comfortable slowly start spreading the word.

This might not seem like a game-changer, but trust me, it is. Here are 56 reasons why.

From there you’ll have developed a new skill set, a platform with which to grow your name and reputation, and you’ll have started the foundation for making a positive change in your life.

Will you need to take a few risks to get where you want to go? Sure.

But if you plan for them, what used to feel like jumping out of a plane with out a parachute – simply becomes a tandem jump with an experienced instructor.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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16 comments on "The Risky Business of Not Taking Risks"

  1. Hey Sean – I can relate to the reader you mentioned. I’m 30 and have been an accountant for nearly a decade. I was also miserable until I quit my job this month and I’m working on structuring my lifestyle to be more in line with goals. I have to say that you and your blog have been a huge inspiration to me over the last several years. I’ve been a reader for a longtime now and this is my first comment on your blog. I finally took your advice and pulled the trigger by starting a blog earlier this year and have been able to connect with like minded people and get some potential business opportunities out of it. This all wouldn’t have happened without a lot of planning but reading about your experiences have been a useful guide for me and want to pay credit where credit is do. Thank you Sean.

    1. Sean says:

      OH nice! I love getting comments like this, thanks for coming out of the shadows 🙂 Keep me posted on how everything evolves and definitely let me know how I can help.

  2. Chris says:

    It’s true. If you never take the risk, you never know. Doesn’t have to be a blog, but if you have something to offer it’s your best bet for getting started right away. You learn to think in a new way(being a producer rather than a consumer) and learn the ropes of running a successful business. Totally should start a blog. Do it today.

    1. Sean says:

      I totally agree. It doesn’t have to be a blog, but I’ve found that to be the easiest, least daunting starting point, that still teaches useful skills that will propel you forward. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Ute says:

    Perhaps I would add/recommend go to events, meet interesting people, get a new perspective on things. Perhaps you meet someone there who looks for an accountant for his cool startup… You don’t have to do something big and quit your job or start a blog. Just go to meetups, WDS or stuff you are slightly interested in or not. Just go out and see different people, sometimes this may lead to new ventures, if not you’ll grow your network.

  4. Chas says:

    Thanks for linking the ’56 Reasons’. The only other thing I have to add, is my favorite quote; “The promises of this world are, for the most part, vain phantoms; and to confide in one’s self, and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.” ~Michelangelo.

  5. Mathias says:

    Great motivational piece! From a statistical viewpoint, risk-taking is the only thing that makes sense! Taking risks, while uncertain in the short run, is actually the safest way of getting what you want in the long run. Because the odds of not succeeding in any of your risk-taking are astronomical!

  6. Eric says:

    Further: the more you take risks, the easier it becomes, and the better you are able to evaluate whether a risk is worth it or not!

  7. Jessica says:

    I love this post. A few months ago I decided I wanted to go indoor skydiving – not as terrifying, but still something I had zero interest in doing. I knew I would probably dislike it, BUT I also knew that I could look back and show myself that I could do things I was scared of be fine. Don’t plan too much, just plan to survive and take that jump!

  8. Isaac says:

    The higher the risks in entreprenureship, the higher the returns

  9. David says:

    Sean, I just now discovered your blog, and I love what you’ve got to say! I am a 29 year old restaurant manager who recently started my own blog and the path to a location independent lifestyle. While I love my job and my company, and have been very successful with both, I have had 3 years to look at some of my superiors and fellow managers who are older and have families they barely get to spend time with, kids whose soccer games they often can’t attend, rough marriages and relationships stressed by lack of quality time, and suffering health from a lack of leisure time and exercise.

    I decided recently that I am spending the next year learning and implementing everything I can about online advertising, affiliate marketing, and building a location independent lifestyle that allows me the free time to spend with my girlfriend (and future wife) and the kids we will one day have. I have a lot to learn, but your posts so far are very inspiring and informative. Keep it up!

  10. Going through your post was liking reading some pages of my life. The guy who sent you an email looks similar to me in some aspect, just that mine is a little bit different, because i have started my process of exit. I am a huge risk taker, but i believe risk must be calculated. Am presently in a paid employment that i dont love in anyway. Just doing it for the money. My passion lies in motivational speaking, seminars and training and these i have started part time until i eventually exit paid employment in the next one year or two. Thanks so much for the inspired post.

  11. Nicole Desourdis says:

    I can relate to Andrew. I have been a hair-stylist for the past 9 years, and have slowly but surely been finishing up my undergrad so I may move out of this god forsaken area (AKA Northern Virginia) and get a salary paying job (whereas in the beauty industry you never know what you’re going to make until you’ve spent years building a solid clientele.) So, low and behold I’m one class away (Phys. ed, of all things) from getting my B.A. Am I going to move away and get that PR job near the beach that I want? HA! The closer the possibility of that becoming a reality gets the more my anxiety grows and the more I begin to laugh at the idea. It’s good to know people like you have overcome your fear and it has surely paid off. It’s the same motto as would apply to playing the stock market (another thing I would never do)….”there’s no reward with no risk”.

  12. Tony Kates says:

    This was an inspirational read! And I agree- we all need to step out of our comfort zones and that is a hard thing to do. We can’t keep swimming in a fish bowl when there’s an ocean of possibilities ahead of us.

    Thanks for sharing your words with us!

  13. When I finally made the shift from doing what was safe to doing what I loved for a living (editing and writing), I got there in baby steps. I started with asking for an informational interview with the newspaper I wanted to write for. This put me on the map of the editor in chief. A few months later, when an editor’s job opened up, he hired me — without even interviewing anyone else. From there, I developed my first cred as an editor, then moved on to the second phase of my dream — freelancing. After freelancing a few years, I got to the point where I had my own small business, with clients of my own and a website and blog. Now I make my living editing books and writing screenplays (I’ve managed to option one to a producer) — fulfilling both of my passions. It never would have happened if I hadn’t asked for that informational interview.

    The risk I took was small, each step of the way — enough to make positive change but without scaring myself to death. With each increment of success, I got more confident, and the next risk was bigger but not as intimidating. For me, baby steps is the way to go — risking just as much as I can afford to lose if the whole thing falls through, but risking for real all the same. It just has to be a risk the results of which — either way — I can live with.

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