Think, for a second, about all of the times in your life where you’ve taken a risk that paid off. Now, think about the times where you avoided any risk at all. Looking back on those moments, which of the outcomes do you prefer?
As the inimitable Amelia Earhart once said, “Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.” It’s precisely this mindset that has helped me to make many of the tough decisions in my life which involved palpable levels of risk. Accepting risk to get where I am today certainly wasn’t easy, but those tough decisions were certainly worth it.
In my experience, when I’ve set my eyes on complex goals, or was faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the decision to take a necessary risk has always felt worth it. Whether it was flying planes as a teenager, joining the military, flying in combat and airshows, or opening up about my personal Tick Borne Illness battle, I knew that I would incur some level of risk: physical risk, mental risk, and/or social risk.
Despite these risks, I knew that the potential for a positive outcome far outweighed the likelihood of a truly negative consequence. If I hadn’t made the decision to fly as a teenager, who knows if I would have ever joined the Air Force. If I hadn’t joined the Air Force, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities of a lifetime that led me to fly in combat, serve in the White House, be a USAF Thunderbird pilot, live all over the world, and be part of making history.
All of my professional milestones and successes came as a result of taking risks that, at the time, seemed a bit intimidating, but manageable. Making the decision to step out onto a stage to discuss my Tick Borne Illness battle for the first time was something I was nervous about doing. I wasn’t sure if I was comfortable being so vulnerable & open about the struggles that I had faced. But, if I didn’t share the gnarly details of my personal Tick Borne Illness battle, I wouldn’t be able to help other people along their own difficult health journeys. Taking that social risk has allowed me to help other people…and that is meaningful work.
When you take a risk to better yourself or seize an opportunity, you’re often venturing into unknown territory and, in turn, learning things about yourself that you didn’t know before. Growing as a person requires making tough decisions and accepting risk. Prior to taking a ‘leap into risk’, I never knew for certain that I was capable of the things I eventually accomplished. Evidently, I was…and so are you.
Photo Credit: TSgt Justin Pyle, USAF