Sunday, January 30, 2011

Risky Business

TO RISK OR NOT TO RISK: Which is more regretful?

This question has been seriously weighing on me all day. I've written this blog in my head so many times (while I ate, bathed, walked, cleaned) and I'll be really pissed off if it doesn't come through in print as well as it came through in my talking mind.

The question is prompted from thoughts around "regrets in life"... It seems to me that most regrets are due to lack of action stalled by fear. Personal fear, inherited fear from family, friends and societal fear. FEAR (False Events that Appear to be Real) - borrowed from a self-help book I can not for the life of me remember the title! Sorry.

The work is to really look at the fears that present themselves via the above channels and then recognize the relevance to you. And so one is left to dig deep into the reasons behind the "personal" degree of fear, the "family/friends" degree of fear and finally "society's" degree of fear. As each have their own brand of value unique to you and your decision making process.

When I think back to the last time this question and this exercise surfaced in my life it was between 1990-91. For those of you who knew me then, you know that the "World Series Earthquake" hit San Francisco in October of '89 while I was the HR Director at Booz, Allen. Without getting into the details of that experience, except to note that my apartment building fell off it's foundation and it was deemed unsafe, know that it left me feeling exhilerated. Allowed to pack a mere two suitcases of clothes and, of course, my passport everything else went into Allied Van Storage. With my life's accumulations reduced down to a steel box, this constituted mega freedom! I am such a predictable Sagittarian...freedom is and has been my ultimate aphrodisiac! It then dawned on me that this was a "golden opportunity". So what did I do contrary to ALL? Kept everything in storage, moved into a friend's home, saved money, cashed out a heavily penalized retirement plan, quit my job and camped across Europe, Africa and Asia for a year. I was 37. I'll list briefly the fears that surfaced when I made this decision:
  • the economy sucks (there was a crash in 1989)
  • you're giving up a great job
  • you'll catch aids in Africa
  • why not go to Norway or Sweden; it's safer (this was from my father)
  • you'll loose your career
  • how could you do this alone? you'll be lonely; go with a friend at least...
  • are YOU pregnant? (as I was originally leaving for 9 months)
  • you'll never last camping; see you in a week! (colleagues only saw the manicured side to me)
None of the above were my fears; in fact, I had none. I recognized "perfect timing".... I was single, had a little money saved, everything was in storage and possessed that right degree of confidence that I could return and simply pick up where I left off. This was an opportunity I could not pass up.

Now you might be figuring out why this question has surfaced today. I am single, have a little money saved and everything is in storage and so what might I want to do that if I don't, I will regret.

Stay tuned.

I would love to hear from you as to how you have worked through fear and how often should we ask the question, "are we living a life with no regrets'?


  1. It's a platitude, I know, but I think we are generally more at risk, in this country at this time, of settling for too little than of risking too much. Being safe doesn't feel risky. We are more clear about the risks of doing than the risks of not doing. The risks of doing are more abstract. The risks of doing something appear to be simpler and easier to guess: if I take up hang gliding, I might break bones or die. The risks of being safe are more difficult to articulate or guess at: how can I know what I will miss if I stay at home and watch TV? The (again platitudinous) question is, why be alive if we aren't going to live?Shall we have a long safe life, or a potentially shorter, but memorable and meaningful, life?

  2. Nat, I have always admired the way you walk through that kind of fear and create a new experience for yourself. I had done something similar with my move to NC. My fear was would I be accepted by this community. I was leaving a home, children, job, familial network and friends to take on a different role for me. Turning away from my childrens needs toward my parents needs was pivitol. I know how you felt when you felt free to explore. I sold my house and gave away pretty much everything in it. 30 years of 'stuff' touting my life and my contribution to it. I came to NC with my car and 5 boxes. Boxes containing pictures and books. It is freeing moving about without all that stuff. I learned that I am not that stuff. I finally became alright with myself. I am enough whereever I am. I thank God that I can come and be of service lovingly with my parents. I was away from them for so much of my life. Thanks for the blog.