Though it usually gets mis-attributed to Mark Twain, a French philosopher who lived in the 1500s coined this particular piece of brilliance.
The longer you’re in a particular business, the more risk-averse you become. You tend to get gun-shy, and the downside seems a little steeper.
The truth is there’s often more risk in doing nothing. Even worse is going into the “prevent defense” you often see football teams adopt when they try to protect a tenuous lead in the closing minutes of a game. Instead of playing to win, they start playing “not to lose.” How many times have you watched that lead disintegrate?
Sometimes it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, too. You spend all your mental energy imagining what you don’t want, and miraculously it appears! Not a good business plan.
Instead, take yourself out of the equation as much as possible. Remove all the emotion from your assessment and confidently take the calculated and necessary risks that are required to grow your business.
Nobody’s telling you to put on rose-colored glasses and ignore the risks that come with living a full life; but it’s not much fun going through life with one foot on the brake, imagining every worst-case scenario that lies around the next corner.
Like so many things, it’s a matter of balance. When does prudence and exercising good judgment descend into needless, destructive worry?
Usually, it’s when your thoughts are repeatedly keeping you from taking a specific action. If it’s something that keeps coming up in your life, there’s probably a valid reason to address the issue. Not going down a dark alley at midnight is good judgment. Not going to the doctor because you’re afraid of what he might find is destructive worry.
My life has been a terrible string of misfortunes, the vast majority of which never happened.— Michael de Montugue