Theodore Roosevelt acknowledged his penchant for risk taking when he coined the well-known statement, “Far better it is to dare mighty things to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits that neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat”. From history, we have read that Teddy led the charge up the famous San Juan Hill with his rough riders in the Spanish American War. President Roosevelt was also a trust buster-going against the big time capitalism of his day. Teddy loved a good fight that had lots of risk-this is what motivated his charge through life.
Another who gets a charge out of risk is the golfer Phil Michelson. Take this poignant but tragic story of his high-risk golfing world: The scene was the 2006 U.S. Open. Phil had a one stroke lead standing on the tee box on the 72th hole. All he needed was a par to capture his first US open championship. Most players might play it safe and hit a utility wood or iron to hit the fairway-not Phil. He took out his driver, sliced it far left (he is a lefty), almost hitting it out of bounds. From that point, he tried to hit his next shot around the tree that lay directly in front of him and the green. Phil hit the tree and his ball dropped straight down. Phil then smashed an iron out of the rough which landed in the greenside bunker. He blasted out over the green, flipped his next shot to two feet and sunk the putt for a double bogey, and lost the championship by one stroke to Geoff Olgivy.
Phil fans, and he has millions of them, were all cringing from the experience.
Why couldn’t he just play it safe and go for a par? All he needed was a par. Why did he make such a poor decision?
The answer is simple. Phil Mickelson is an extreme risk taker. This style of play is what energizes him. In fact, Phil is no different from a sky diver, race car driver, or bungee jumper. High risk takers become bored very easily so they seek out activities that are exciting. They not only thrive on the rush- they need the rush.
This need may be due to their neurological make-up. Psychologists have recently shown that high risk personality styles have low serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps the brain function. Having low serotonin is analogous to a car idling in low gear. High risk behavior stimulates the serotonin production in the brain of high risk takers and this literally shifts their brain into high gear. Thus, the stimulation of high-risk situations is rewarding and these individuals gravitate toward this type of behavior. For Phil, he gets a rush by playing for broke on most of his shots.
Phil Michelson exemplifies the old axiom: live by the sword-die by the sword. His going for broke style has made him one of the best and well-loved golfers in his generation, yet it has also ruined a few tournament rounds-and the final round of the 2006 US Open is no exception.
Many believe taking risks and exhibiting this style is essential for success. Former IBM chairman John Akers says, “The people who are playing it totally safe are never going to have either the fun or the reward of the people who decide to take some risks. According to Akers, “There is an incredible excitement to risk taking. There is an increase in energy-the adrenaline flows and the awareness is heightened. You have a greater sense of aliveness. Life assumes a richer hue”. These statements are clearly spoken by a man who loves to take risks in his life.
Marc Cuban exhibits that hue in life from which John Akers speaks. Mark Cuban is a well-known flamboyant self-made billionaire. He rose to riches by cofounding Micro-solutions which he sold to Compuserve in 1990. Then he co-founded broadcast.com. a sport radio broadcasting on the internet, which he sold to Yahoo at the peak of the internet craze. He also loves his sports and currently is the owner of Dallas Mavericks NBA team.
Cuban’s philosophy for business is to risk to gain something, and according to him, “if you do not have the courage to get out of your comfort zone, you will never be successful”. Cuban believes that risk and success go hand and hand.
Marc Cuban, John Akers, Phil Michelson and Theodore Roosevelt have the commonality of being a risk-taker. Their life takes on a glow when risk is involved. Without it, their life would be dull. Thus, we could extrapolate that these individuals became successful because they intuitively brought risk into their lives. Risk helped them to achieve their greatness, regardless of venue.
Are you a risk-taker? Do you have a risk-taking personality? Psychologists have labeled this a “T” personality type.
Here are a few questions to assess whether or not you are a risk-taker:
1)Do you like driving fast in the rain?
2)Do you enjoy a good roller coaster?
3)Do you like down hill skiing-when there is a chance of injury?
4)Do you enjoy living life on the edge?
5)Are you decisions considered risky and edgy?
If you answered yes to 4 out of the 5 above questions, you probably have a risk-taking personality.
More importantly, are you using this personality style to your advantage?
Or, have you lost the glow in your life? Perhaps by adding some risk, you can change the hue of your world.
Get Risky with a plan
While risk-taking may be essential to some to fill that void or boost their adrenaline, don’t believe it is always done with out a purpose. It is rarely done haphazardly by anyone, either in sport or business.
Ask Red Adai who pioneered the extinguishing of oil well fires. Through his work, he built a reputation as the best oil well fire fighter in the world. His company put out the Gulf War oil fires in 1991 and received a special letter of recognition from President Bush for his work he completed in just nine months.
You figured a man who faced the heat of death every day at work would have a plan. He does. Red said that fighting a fire is like going into battle and mounting an invasion. You start with a battle plan, gather your men and equipment, and then attack.
If you are like Teddy, Phil or Marc Cuban, be risky but have a plan. Engaging in high risk behavior doesn’t mean that you act impulsively. Just because you may not want a net when you leap does not mean you do not have a plan when you land.
Dr.Gregg Steinberg is a sport psychologist to many professional athletes, motivational speaker, business keynote speaker and leadership trainer and sales trainer. He is the author of the Washington Post Best Selling book: Full Throttle: 122 strategies to supercharge your performance at work. See more about Dr. Gregg at http://www.drgreggsteinberg.com