“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. ” Helen Keller
Entrepreneurs are characterized by their willingness to take risks. As I mulled over the risk I took to get onto the GSA Schedule, I looked back at the risks I have taken that brought me to this time and place.
I risked going to a small college instead of taking a scholarship to a large state university. I met my husband, married at 20, and completed my senior year with my baby in tow, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, Magna cum Laude. So everything turned out all right.
I risked moving alone with my one-year-old daughter from the East Coast to a midwestern state to get my Masters Degree. Away from family and support, it was lonely and difficult, but I accomplished my goal in 9 months.
I risked starting the first feminist theatre in the Midwest, the Apple Corps, Ltd. with another woman. We sought and were awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and performed throughout the state, initiating important conversations with women about their lives and their choices.
I risked agreeing to teach a leadership class for a technical college, even though I had never taught leadership before. It was a wonderful learning experience, because it taught me that I could research and teach any topic they needed. It also gave me a new career of teaching at the associate, baccalaureate and masters levels for the technical college and university continuing education programs.
I risked competing against much more seasoned employees for a rare promotional opportunity. That position brought isolation from my peers and other challenges, but it enabled me to further develop my human resource consulting expertise.
I risked leaving a government job after ten years and starting my own company, Laurel and Associates, Ltd. to deliver training programs on a variety of topics for state agencies. For eight straight years, my training schedule was booked solid by the beginning of September. That lasted until budget shortfalls severely limited state training opportunities for external consultants.
I risked having a second child at age 40 while running my business. Along with my daughter, he is my pride and joy.
I risked going to Croatia by myself (the first time I had ever traveled to Europe), in order to teach the staff of newly created small business centers how to train adults in entrepreneurism. This was just after the war, when land mines were still in the fields and city parks. I ended up going back 5 times for two weeks at a time, helping to establish the first student-centered Masters Degree program in Entrepreneurism in Eastern Europe. I was also able to bring my son with me two different times, which opened the world to him.
I risked traveling around the country by myself to facilitate three-day train the trainer programs for a national organization. Some of the people in my classes became dear friends as well as valued clients. Many still stay in touch, using what I taught them.
In the past three years, I have risked traveling alone to Nigeria, Jordan, Zambia and Kenya for the United States Agency for International Development to conduct train the trainer programs and certify trainers. I have gained as much from these trips as my students have, learning about their cultures, seeing their countries, and honing my ability to train in situations where English is not always spoken.
So, of course I risked getting onto the GSA Schedule. Taking risks is apparently what I do. Unfortunately, that has not been very successful.
Nor have all of the risks I’ve taken worked out well for me. If they had, they would have been sure things rather than risks.
The online Oxford Dictionary defines the verb “risk” as follows:
- expose (someone or something valued) to danger, harm, or loss;
- act or fail to act in such a way as to bring about the possibility of (an unpleasant or unwelcome event); and/or
- incur the chance of unfortunate consequences by engaging in (an action)
Every one of the risks I’ve listed had their sometimes considerably unpleasant moments, frequently fatigued me, occasionally made me ill, and often kept me in a state of stress and financial insecurity. There were many other risks I took that failed miserably- I just didn’t enumerate them here.
Will I still continue to take risks? Yes, because on balance, that is the way I have learned my craft and grown both personally and professionally.
May your learning be sweet.