I’ve been thinking about risk a lot these days.
My new book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” was born of risk. It began as a personal essay I wrote for The New York Times, published in February 2009. I was absolutely certain that publishing it would kill my writing career, as in it I said that working retail was better than working as a journalist.
Wasn’t I torching all my bridges?
In fact, I was on CNN two days later discussing it; then on the Brian Lehrer Show and, within months, had found an agent and sold a book based on my oddest risk of all — taking a low-wage job and being willing to talk about it for publication.
I had no clear idea why I worked retail, other than — like many others — I needed steady cash. There was no Grand Plan, just needing and valuing a new job where I might re-build my shattered confidence after my Daily News debacle.
Taking these risks has now brought me, and my work and ideas, far more attention than anything smaller and safer and more conventional I’ve also produced. I’ve spoken at a Marie-Claire staff event, keynoted a major retail conference (with another skedded this summer) and, if the stars truly align, may see my name on the small screen.
I recently took a few more risks, some big, some small:
— I cut my hair really short, not the prudent choice given my current weight. I feel so great and so liberated I also now feel a lot more motivated to shed the damn weight, instead of dutifully waiting until I am thinner to reward myself with a pretty cut.
— I met up again for the first time in decades with a few former beaux, a high school crush and the man I’d lived with in my 20s, now divorced. I wasn’t at all sure how these meetings would go, but am really glad I went to both. I’m happily partnered, and it was good to catch up with two men who meant a lot to me in earlier days, who are still funny and attractive and with whom I share some serious history, growth and memories.
— I asked a stranger on LinkedIn for help making some connections for Malled and he made a great introduction. Now I have to find the cojones to ask for the business!
— I’ll be going on a silent Buddhist retreat July 23-31, a gift from my partner. I can’t decide what freaks me out most: not working (tough for a full-time freelancer); no liquor; not talking; being surrounded by people who fervently believe in ideas different from my own. It’s all good. But a little scary!
In this relentlessly awful economy, it’s very tempting to avoid just about any risk — whether confronting a toxic friend or love relationship (I could end up alone!), dealing with a bully boss (I could get fired!) or ditching an annoying client (I could starve!)
I think it’s at times like these it’s even more essential to choose a few risks and take them.
Courage is a muscle — use it or lose it.
I like this blog post from a businesswoman who urges us all to use a little “creative chutzpah.”
As Seth Godin writes here, taking a risk can be the smartest choice we make.
Here’s a great story from the New Yorker about a Hollywood therapist who urges his patients to eat a “death cookie” — take a risk!
When did you last take a risk?
How did it turn out?
Do you regret it?
Or did it jump-start your life in some unexpected and lovely way?