Taking Risks or Playing it Safe...

What's happened to me?

I used to run to roar.  I went into battle with a bloodlust, which is to say, I enjoyed putting my self in the middle of the madness...it's where I felt born to be.  Even if it meant a negative outcome, I wanted to know that I was in on the action.  I didn't care if everyone liked me.  I didn't even care if I always succeeded.  I wanted to win, of course, but more than that, I at least wanted to be in the game when we lost.  I was even the one who wanted to take the last shot so that if we lost, I knew it wasn't because I didn't want the ball.  I would rather lose and take the shoot, than win and sit the bench.

In about every area of my life I would jump then think.  Diliberation was not only a word I didn't know existed, it was a concept I didn't know existed.  I went with my gut, and I'm not bragging when I tell you that my gut was right a good bit of the time.  Sure, there were times when I would pull the trigger prematurely and live with the consequences of snap decisions, but I really trusted myself...my insticts, my intuations.

There is something to say for risk-takers.  I find that I'm drawn to them, especially since I now have a harder time "going without knowing".  Calculated risk is what it's called and I'm not knocking it.  It's saved my rump a good many times, but I also feel it's taked me out of so many things I believe God created me to enact.  Things haven't happened because I was too scared to put it in layman's terms.

I was reading Ecclesisates this morning and a verse caught my eye.

"Ship your grain across the seas; after many days you MAY recieve a return.  Invest in SEVEN VENTURES, yes, in EIGHT; you DO NOT KNOW what disaster MAY come upon the land.  Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap." - vs.1-2, 4

Let's see, where to start.  So much manna from above in this passage.

A wise guy wrote this and knew something about venture capitalism.  He understood calculated risk.  He took into account the high risk, high return paradigm.  He wasn't about the under-promise and over-deliver philosophy.  This was nearly 3,000 years ago.  It should show us that risk is hardwired into life and living.

MAY - He used the term twice to make sure everyone knew he was a realist.  He wasn't promising that your ship will come in every time you ship someting out...but it may.  You don't always get a return on your risk, but don't stopping shipping.  He didn't know whether disaster would come after you stuck your neck out...but it may.  I hear the word "maybe" a lot.  It's ok to use that in leadership and life.  We should be living in such a way that we find ourselves saying maybe, hopefully, and possibly a good bit.  If we're not, we're only doing the things we know will happen or work...and that means we won't be doing very much with our lives.  We certainly won't be exercising faith...because pregnant in the word faith is the concept of risk...not knowing and moving ahead anyhow.

Invest in SEVEN VENTURES, yes, in EIGHT - Does that light anyone else's logs!  I love when someone actually uses numbers when stating goals.  When they move out of the world of generic generalities and into the world of quantifiable actualities.  Actionable steps...steps you can count.  Who would knock the person that ventured (or adventured) seven times.  Come on, investment isn't for the faint of heart...even once or twice is commendable.  But what happens when you keep investing...keep climbing with obstacles and opposition being all you have to show for it?  Would you you stop at 2 attempts...what about 5?  How 'bout the 7th time...that's the perfet number.  "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."  But what if it's the 7th swing at something?  The author has a simple principle for us, "Try just one more time."  Don't think about the 9th time, think about the next time.  And he uses a powerful word...I'm finding that this word is one I need to hang out with and say often and hear often in order to put one foot in front of the other.  The word is YES.  I need to be around people that live lives of YES.  I'm not talking about 'yes men', I'm talking about people who's coutnenance and conduct drips with positivity and progress that is birthed with a "Yes Mentality".  Can we do that?  Yes.  Could we fail?  Yes.  Should we try it again for the cause?  Yes.  No matter what happens, will you fail or succeed with me?  Yes.  So you think we should try it again an 8th time even though 'we don't know" the outcome?  Yes.  Why do you think so?  Because I believe in the MAY...I believe that life was given to be INVESTED, VENTURED.  So Yes...and thousand times, "YES".  This is good friendship and great leadership.

DO NOT KNOW - There are three things that people fear like the plague.  Failure. The Unknown. Rejection.  These are the terrible and terrifing trio that cause many to recoil and retreat.  I guess I can only speak for myself, but these 3 things can paralyze me...and many times they come all at once althougth it only takes one to take me out certain days.  But "the unknown" is what the author touches on here.  He couldn't be more clear...when you venture, you 'do not know' the outcome and that's unnerving.  Part of living and leading is developing a higher and higher threshold for what you need to know before you act or speak.  Someone said that it's what you do 'while you're afraid' that makes all the difference.  You don't wait for fear to subside before you venture out.  If you wait for the perfect time before you seize the moment, your life will pass you by and you will do precious little with the little 'dash' on your tombstone between your birth and your death.  What you do with that 'dash' means everything...and going without knowing is necessary, are I say expected by our Creator.

WATCH THE WIND...LOOK AT THE CLOUDS - There will always be a reason to not sow and reap.  I go back to the myth of waiting for the 'perfect time'.  The perfect time to have kids.  The perfect time to get married.  The perfect time to push in your chips.  The perfect time to make the move.  This passage seems to indicate we are not meant to know these things.  Could it be that we are to trust God.  Just maybe?  Here's where Risk meets it's bedfellow...Trust.  There is no risk without trust.  Trusting God.  Trusting yourself.  Trusting others.  If you are living a rugged individualism depending on certitude and the 'sure thing'...you with never plant and, thus, never reap.  In fact, no one has every reaped that has not sown.  And here's the thing, you could pick a day for planting and the wind could gust and blow your seed all over the place, none of it finding fertile soil.  The whole year is a wash.  Or, maybe worse, you could get up on a cloudy day in Autumn and roll the dice on harvesting your crop only for it to downpour on all you gathered leaving it damp and moldy, turning to compost before your very eyes.  I had an uncle that just did this last year.  He decided to bail hay trying to thread the needle between storms...he missed it by a few hours and lost $5,000 worth of first cut hay...I watched his face fall and listened to him say to his farmhand, "You just never know."  And you don't.  It could have gone swimmingly...it had time and time again before, but not this time.  After he hung up the phone, I remember his saying, "Hey, I'm bummed, but you win some and you lose some.  You just hope to win more than you lose, but if you don't go for it you never win."  Exactly.  Farmers live with Trust and Risk.  It's been said that "you miss 100% of the shots you never take."  It's amazing that the author of this ancient book knew there was no way around this idea of RISK.  I don't care if you're a Christ-Follower or not...life is risk. Love is risk.  Leadership is risk.  You can constantly concentrate on the clouds or endlessly watch the wind..."What if's" and "If only's" will vex your life.

But in talking to my uncle that day after he lost the whole feild of premium hay I saw a calm in him that I wouldn't feel if I swapped shoes with him.  He looked at me and said, "We'll get it the next time."  And with that we headed out to the lake, hopped on a pontoon, anchored down in a calm cove, and went swimming.  I watched him laugh and play with his kids enjoying each moment even after the devestation of the perverbial "7th time" harrassed him.  He had moved on to the "yes" of the upcoming "8th time" and with that the wind and clouds lost their power in his life.  Sometimes they have the final say...but only for that day.  He wasn't going to allow that day to define the rest of his days.  He would get 'em next time.  He would plant and harvest, invest and venture...because he knew there is no reward without risk.

God, fill me with more moments of insane courage.  Help me to not back down...for the rest of my fleeting life.

(To my kids: If you ever get knocked down or something doesn't work out...it's not over.  Get back up and insert yourself back into the 'risk and reward' cycle.  If you failure while daring greatly, you will never fail.  And if you invest your life and lose it all...I'll always be here for you to fall back on for a bit until you catch your breath and then I'll throw you back into the arena of people who don't obsess over the past or the present because they are too busy creating the future.  You got this."


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