A Deep Dive Into the 5th Essential Trait: Risk-Taker

The fifth of the six essential traits all entrepreneurs-in-the-making must possess that we discuss in Entrepreneurial Leap is risk-taker. A risk-taker is someone willing to take a leap and willing to fail. A risk-taker is a rule breaker, change maker, disruptor. The status quo is not good enough. Entrepreneurs take risks: calculated risks. They are willing to fail, try again, and adapt. When it comes time to take a leap, they understand the risk/reward equation and prefer to take a big risk for a big reward.

Looking at your past history, have you taken risks? Are you rebellious? This is why most people don’t take an entrepreneurial leap. They have all of the other essential traits—they have an idea, are passionate, and are decent problem-solvers. They are driven and responsible. But they are just afraid to take that plunge into the unknown. They are afraid of losing their shirt, afraid of failure, afraid of rocking the boat, afraid of being embarrassed in the eyes of others. When confronted with the thought of jumping out of a plane, they simply freeze. 

Please be honest with yourself if this describes you. 

A risk-taker gets a high from changing things up, defying the norms. Risk-takers are a little crazy. They are willing to fall on their face. They don’t plan or want to fail, but for them, the potential upside always outweighs the downside. As a worst case, a failure for them is a learning experience and a part of the process.

As the late Dr. David Viscott put it: “If you cannot risk, you cannot grow. If you cannot grow, you cannot become your best. If you cannot become your best, you can’t be happy. If you can’t be happy, what else matters?” 

Not Having the Risk-Taker Trait

Many people with great ideas are very passionate, incredibly hard workers, and very responsible. But they already have a great, secure job. Or they want to wait until they save up a certain amount of money, or until the kids are in school, or until they get married, or until they are taller, or until (fill in the blank). They are just too afraid to take their leap.

Here are three decision-making philosophies:

  1.  It’s more important that you decide than what you decide. 
  2. Just get it 80% right the first time. 
  3. If you have 70% of the information and feel 70% confident, move forward. 

If you are not comfortable living by those types of guidelines, you’re probably not a risk-taker.

Looked at another way, maybe you constantly over-analyze tough decisions and end up frozen when it’s time to make the call. In that case, you’ll rarely make the tough but necessary decisions that will keep your company growing. You will typically panic when competitors are kicking your ass rather than out-thinking them. 

A risk-taker is able to make a tough call when they know people won’t agree with them and the stakes are high. In a Fortune magazine issue on decision making, Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, said that in his years and years of research, “no major decision we’ve studied was ever taken at a point of unanimous agreement.” 

If you have all of the other traits and lack this one, partnering with a true entrepreneur might be the right decision for you. 

Taking big risks is not for most. It petrifies most of the population. That is why so few take the entrepreneurial leap. 

Are you a risk-taker? 

Next Steps:

Assess your risk level. Would you benefit from a partner whose risk tolerance is higher than yours?