Let's Stop Killing Ourselves and Take Some Risks

Taking risks doesn’t mean being stupid.  It really involves taking measured risks and really understanding how to mitigate those risks in one way or another. 

I love talking about risk.  Because ultimately, the day before something is truly a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.  If it wasn’t a crazy idea the day before, it wouldn’t be a real breakthrough.  It would be an incremental improvement.  So the question I ask people in their companies, in their organizations is, where are you taking big risks?  Because if you’re not taking big risks then you’re destined to not changing anything or making small incremental improvements.  But if you’re playing a big game in the world, then you have to take risks.  

I look at the United States, for example, I think we’re killing ourselves on how risk adverse we’ve become.  Large government agencies have stopped taking big risks because they’re worried about Congressional investigations.  Large corporations stopped taking big risks because they’re worried about stock prices plummeting.  And really, the entrepreneurial sector ends up being a place where people are willing to risk it all.  You risk you reputation, you risk the capital you raised.  But ultimately, you’re going to be potentially changing the world.  

So, I think about risk a lot.  And I think about encouraging smart risk taking.  Now, taking risks doesn’t mean being stupid.  It really involves taking measured risks and really understanding how to mitigate those risks in one way or another.  So when we announced the Ansari X Prize, I took a huge risk in announcing it without having the $10 million in place.  and ultimately it paid off.  It might not have, we might not be having this conversation to day if we never raised the money, but I thought that, you know, ultimately this was a solid enough idea that there would be somebody who would be willing to put up the funds.  It took me five years, far longer than I expected.  But ultimately in taking that risk, it actually forced me to never give up because I had placed so much on the table in terms of my reputation, the reputation of my friends and colleagues that I couldn’t give up.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

10 books to check out from Jordan Peterson's 'Great Books' list

The Canadian professor has an extensive collection posted on his site.

Jordan Peterson with Carl Jung and the cover art of Jaak Panksepp's 'Affective Neuroscience' (Image: Chris Williamson/Getty Images/Big Think)
Personal Growth
  • Peterson's Great Books list features classics by Orwell, Jung, Huxley, and Dostoevsky.
  • Categories include literature, neuroscience, religion, and systems analysis.
  • Having recently left Patreon for "freedom of speech" reasons, Peterson is taking direct donations through Paypal (and Bitcoin).
Keep reading Show less

Kosovo land swap could end conflict – or restart war

Best case: Redrawing borders leads to peace, prosperity and EU membership. But there's also a worst case.

Image: SRF
Strange Maps
  • The Yugoslav Wars started in 1991, but never really ended.
  • Kosovo and Serbia are still enemies, and they're getting worse.
  • A proposed land swap could create peace – or reignite the conflict.
Keep reading Show less

Should you invest in China's stock market? Know this one thing first.

Despite incredible economic growth, it is not necessarily an investor's paradise.

  • China's stock market is just 27 years old. It's economy has grown 30x over that time.
  • Imagine if you had invested early and gotten in on the ground floor.
  • Actually, you would have lost money. Here's how that's possible.