Taking Risks

Watercolor by Tomihiro Hoshino

Watercolor by Tomihiro Hoshino

Changes are taking place so fast that many of us are both looking forward to the future and simultaneously dreading what might be in store for us. Some days it feels as though every assumption we ever made has changed.

Within the last couple of weeks I’ve heard from two friends who lost food jobs that they have held for several years. I tremble too when I hear rumors of cutbacks and layoffs. Maybe you do also.

A measure of bravery and sense of adventure involves our willingness to take a risk.  The trick is to plan ahead, keep the connections with friends and colleagues strong, imagine the worst and be as prepared for other next step as possible.  Or, as it has been said: “Don’t wait for the hurricane to arrive until you decide to repair the roof.”

Whether we know it or not, we are all taking risks all the time. Even if we are classified as full-time employees, we are all freelancers.  The axe hangs over our head by a slender thread.  The only security we have is our ability to transform our knowledge and experience into stepping stones to the next opportunity.

Change is the only constant in the continuum of our life. If we stop pedaling, we’ll fall off the bike. If we keep going, no matter how slowly, we’ll eventually arrive at the place where we want to be. If we stand still, there is an illusion we’re coasting, but, in fact, we’re falling back.

Can I tell you a little story about my friend Lucy?

When Lucy was a young college graduate she wanted to be a top notch reporter. Her employer decided she would be a good secretary. Lucy remained a secretary all her working life, toiling anonymously for a weekly news magazine. She often had to work late.

I remember she once said that working for a magazine was like being in a whorehouse: lots of hanging about, punctuated by bursts of short sharp bursts of intense activity (when the deadline approached).

Lucy retired at age 65 with a handshake, medical insurance and a small pension. At her going away party, her colleagues gave her a gift certificate entitling her to take six watercolor classes. She was thrilled. Other than wanting to travel the world as a reporter, the other wish dearest to her heart was to become an artist.

After finishing the course, Lucy signed up for another, and then, another. Pretty soon she discovered the greatest watercolor paintings were created in Japan.

Lucy booked a flight to Tokyo. She was hampered by being unable to speak the language. So she learned the language. In her late sixties, she bought a house in a small village in Japan, where she could continue to study and paint. She finally took a risk and realized a dream.

In the immortal words of Robert F. Kennedy:

“Some dream of things that are and ask why?
Others dream of things that never were and ask why not?”

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