By Amarun Johal
Risk, the gateway to the unknown, the birth place of potential, the facilitator of what is rather than what could have been. Since the dawn of time, man has wrestled with the idea of journeying to the unknown, confronting the realm of possibility. Whether it be our early ancestors venturing deep into the Savannah in search of food and water, or long bearded pirates setting sail for the illustrious pursuit of gold, the sense of adventure has always been deeply embedded within the human psyche.
However, pursuing the path of adventure gives rise to the possibility of misfortune and danger. Humans, for the most part are extremely risk averse, a trait that ensured the survival of our primitive forefathers. Fear is a useful tool in the game of survival, a tool designed to protect oneself from incoming threats and preserve existence. Though fear can be viewed as an essential element in the preservation of life, it can also act as the shackles that stop you from living it. You must be willing to risk your life as a means of preserving it.
This paradoxical state may appear contradictory, but bear with me as I attempt to explain its validity. At the highest level of conception, reality manifests itself into two realms of being, order and chaos. Order represents the domain of known knowledge, a place of safety and predictability. Whereas, chaos represents the unknown, a place of both potential and disaster.
Now the real question is, which side of the coin is more likely to produce greater levels of success? like most things in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Progress is optimised on the border of chaos on order, to walk the tight rope between the infinite and the finite, to journey to the edge of what is known without falling into the abyss.
This optimised position is the birth place of innovation, and its transcendent affect can be seen through all aspects of life. An example of this phenomenon can often be seen in the sporting world. What makes a truly iconic sporting moment, one that transcends time and space and becomes a book marker in popular culture?
I need look no further than the year of 1986. June 22nd, Mexico City, a packed out Azteca stadium hots the FIFA world cup quarter final between England and Argentina. Tensions are high, Argentina lead England via a goal to nil, the game is poised on a knifes edge. On the 55th minute a young Maradona receives the ball in his own half. At this moment a decision is made in the young Argentine’s mind, to push the limits of what is known and possible to its very edge.
However, with this decision he inevitably invites the ever looming probability of disaster. Perhaps the average man would have chose certainty in such a moment, to seek the shelter of order and predictability in a moment embroiled in such chaos. Maybe the average man wouldn’t dare pursue the path of greatness, as the crippling fear of being held responsible for a game costing error may be too strong.
To accept the burden of risk is a courageous decision, and a vital choice in the pursuit of success. In this moment, the young Argentine decided to accept such a burden, and so began his sixty yard dash towards the England goal. With the ball appearing to be magnetised to his feet, he proceeds to pass four outfield players in the space of eight seconds. With every touch he travels further to the edge of possibility. He finishes his dazzling run with a delicate feint that leaves the keeper rooted to the spot and slots the ball into the back of the net to double Argentine’s lead.
A singular moment that will live on internally. A moment that will continue to capture the imagination, a moment that represents a new realm of possibility, a moment that inspires others to dream and push the boundaries of their own capabilities. But essentially, it was a moment born from risk, from decision to gamble with the gods of fate. As Jim Rohn once said “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary”.
A similar story can be extrapolated from the early careers of Steve Jobs and Walt Disney. Both men were visionaries in their respected fields, but many doubted their initial ideas, as these ideas were beyond the comprehension of most investors.
Often in business, we can be dictated and persuaded by the materialists, by the data analysts and reductionists. However, often risk is the pursuit of an abstract idea or vision. A vision can not be dissected, measured or even rationalised, its often a deep rooted impulse that transcends rationality itself.
Walt Disney’s initial plans were universally declined as the ideas he proposed had never been seen before, rendering success a low probability. However, innovation lies beyond the door of the unknown, a place only the courageous are willing to travel to.
To leave the refugee of predictability, and seek the unknown is a risk, but in order to achieve greatness you must be willing invite disaster to the table. Without the risk there is no story, without story there is no meaning and what is life without meaning?