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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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The Necessity of Creative Risk Taking

The issue of risk is absolutely central to being a creative person. 

The issue of risk is absolutely central to being a creative person.  Whether it’s being a write or an entrepreneur or an artist risk is something you have to think about a lot and deal with a lot.  Trying to create a life that is fulfilling and meaningful and satisfying to you is much harder than just kind of sticking with a job that is easy and that is kind of secure and safe and so there is always at every step of your way in your career even if you’re a traditional professional like a lawyer or a doctor you’re always going to face a choice between a one path which is safer and less risky and another, but is more mediocre, doesn’t have as much of a chance for greatness and another path which is riskier, but also gives you the chance for greatness.  So there is no way to achieve greatness in your field without taking risks.  So then the question becomes how do you take those risks?  How big of a risk do you want to take and how do you mitigate the risks?  And so I'm a very big believer in starting small and getting feedback from the world and course correcting there.


So having a stable income is a very useful thing to have while you’re out in the world also trying to take risks.  So having a day job, this is tried and true method of creative people through the ages.  Having a day job that you know is going to pay the bills and you’re not going to be out on the street trying to pay rent.  Have that taken care of, but then start taking some risks.  Put yourself out there on a blog.  Create something, it’s called in the business world now a minimum viable product, some minimum viable product that you can put out into the world and see if you get any bites, see if you get any customers, see if you get any viewers or fans or audience and course correct, try new stuff.  Throw lots of stuff against the wall and see what sticks and there are ways you can do that where you can get—the key is to get real world feedback from the world before you invest a lot of money into it.

So one mistake a lot of people make is they get this idea for a business or they say I want to write a novel or I want to start a business.  They quit everything that is stable in their life. They mortgage their house.  They borrow money.  They go into debt and sink it all into this thing that they then spend a year or two years building before they get any feedback from the world, whether the world actually wants it or not and I think that is the wrong way to go about it.  That is the way that maximizes risk.  The way that minimizes risk is to keep your income stable.  Have a nice, stable income and start with small projects that don’t risk your income, don’t risk you being out on the street, don’t risk you not knowing where your food is going to come from, but that allow you to interface with your potential customers or your potential audience and get feedback from them and see what they respond to and start—and snowball it out from there where you start small, you get a little bit more feedback, you course correct and it just can grow from there and then there will come a time when it actually may make sense to quit your day job and focus on your passion, but you want to keep the day job doing while you have your passion growing.

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

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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