February 5, 2008

Put me in, Coach!

Speaking of podcasts... Almost two years ago one of our Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders speakers canceled at the last minute. This always creates a problem and a whirlwind of activity in an attempt to fill the spot. I decided to volunteer myself to give the talk. This took a lot of chutzpah since the speaker lineup includes icons such as Carly Fiorina, William Perry, and John Doerr.... But, since there wasn't an easy alternative, my colleagues put me in.

I decided to craft a talk called "What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20...", based on a list of lessons I hoped to impart to my kid as he left for college. In fact, one of the lessons in the talk is "Don't wait to be anointed." That is, don't wait for others to ask you to take on a challenging role, but just do it!

Essentially, being entrepreneurial demands you to print your own business cards. It requires the confidence to take leaps that others might find daunting. I involves taking risks, some of which are small and others which are mighty big.

Risks come in all different forms. For example, some people are comfortable taking financial risks, others are comfortable taking physical risks, and others are comfortable taking social risks. I was pretty comfortable taking the social risk of getting up in front of the class and giving a talk, but I would never have been comfortable taking the risk of jumping out of an airplane.

It is pretty easy to teach yourself to be more comfortable with risks. The trick is to take small risks at first and to build confidence. And, it takes a willingness to fail sometimes. In fact, I often ask my students to write "failure resumes" where they have to outline all their biggest screw-ups, personal, professional, and academic. They have to describe the failure and what they learned from it. The lesson is that if you aren't failing sometimes, you aren't taking enough risks.

No comments: