How a teenager went from frozen by risk to free
At 19, Pete has already lived through more pain and drama than most people at 91. And, he’s not wasted an ounce of it.
Pete (not his real name) grew up in poverty, fatherless, on guard against abuse, often hungry, and at times, homeless. At one point, he attempted to take his life. A close family member told him they wished he hadn’t failed. That’s just a shortlist of his early challenges.
From the struggle came clarity.
When Pete was younger, he wanted to be a WWE wrestler. Becoming a wealthy star was the only viable path he could imagine to help the people he cared for escape their struggles.
Today, his goal is to become a counselor to youth who are struggling in difficult situations live a safe and healthy life. It’s big work.
Big work requires, well… big work.
Pete has big work to do to get there. It starts with brand new challenges like earning money to pay rent and buy food now that he lives on his own.
He’s up at 5:30 every weekday to catch an early bus to his morning job at a daycare center. At midday, he takes another long bus ride plus a long walk across town to his afternoon job at a Boys and Girls Club. He gets home at 8pm and goes to bed to repeat the process the next day. On Saturdays, he coaches youth flag football.
It’s meaningful. It’s satisfying. He arrives home every night exhausted but fulfilled.
How he got from feeling trapped to taking bold action applies to all of us.
Pete’s decided to take the more difficult, more fulfilling path of working with youth since it’s aligned with his bigger goals, even though it pays much less than other options. Next, he’ll go to college and get a degree in counseling to build his dream further.
Pete didn’t squander the crisis.
You probably know from experience that after you’ve been knocked down repeatedly, sometimes you just want to give up. Pete felt hopeless on multiple occasions.
It wasn’t the crisis. It was how he perceived it.
There’s a paradox of challenges. Have ever become far more bold when the risk became so enormous you felt like you had little to lose? Instead of remaining risk averse, your orientation to risk can flip in an instant.
It all comes down to Perception. Instead of becoming more cautious as risk rises, as the risk/reward paradigm is often taught, you can feel liberated.
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Janis Joplin was right. One of the reasons Pete was able to make such a huge leap from his old life to create his new one wasn’t simply because of his desire. It was because he finallyperceived, whether it was true or not, that he’d entered “nothing to lose” territory.
Since then, his initial boldness continues to grow as he’s become comfortable with taking action even when the outcome isn’t clear.
Is it your circumstances or your story about them that will move you?
Are reading this post to learn something new to help you fulfill your own goals and dreams?
The question is, how do you perceive the risk of really going for it?
Established companies are rarely the ones to introduce bold innovation to their market, and they’ve paid dearly for it. They perceived the risk of trying something new was too great…think of established carmakers versus Tesla; successful financial services firms versus Stripe or Robinhood; Pandora versus Spotify.
The perception of being successful inhibits more of us from acting boldly than does a lack of desire or talent. It’s often the ones who are convinced they have little or nothing to lose who make the boldest moves.
Since you already have a dream, the question becomes:
How do you shift your perceptions about what you have to lose?
Pete took a bold risk the night he moved out of his dangerous home with no idea of where he’d go. It wasn’t smooth or fun, but it didn’t deliver him the terrible failure he feared, either. From that learning experience, he’s continued to play more boldly. He’s shifted his perception of risk.
Is there something bigger you want to do, also?
What are the punishing risks you perceive that keep you from really going for it?
Are you SURE they’re as real as you perceive them to be? Can you find credible arguments for how the opposite is also true? Can you ground your fears with facts instead of your own self-generated stories? Have you asked a trusted ally how they perceive things?
Maybe the other question to consider is: What’s the risk if Idon’t pursue this?
What would the loss be, then?