I pretended to be 18 to get into college. I was 16.
Seemed like a smart idea at the time. I went to open day. I met all the teachers. I fell in love with sound engineering and recording studios. Move over Brian Eno (record producer), I thought.
I did the pre-interview. There were lots of applicants to get in.
“You didn’t make it. The head of the department thinks you’re too inexperienced. You didn’t even know what software we use to record instruments.”
The software named Pro Tools has never left my mind since.
“Please miss, I will do anything to get in.”
She made some inquiries. They agreed to let me in if I paid the first year’s tuition up front. Money talks, bullsh*t walks. So I handed over a check.
My secret stayed safe … until the other kids worked it out.
“You’re not 18. You can’t even get into a pub,” one student said.
They were right. My life started out as a 16 year old fraud. However, the way I look at it, they never asked how old I was. There were no ID checks. If they had asked, I would have gladly told them.
But I took a giant risk.
I finished higher education two years ahead of everybody else my age. I worked in a startup while finishing high school and going to college at night. It led me to achieve unusually high results at a young age.
That’s the first time I realized the benefit of taking a risk.
Marriage is risky
I’m about to get married. It’s scary AF.
One person for life seems like a huge risk. What if you grow apart? What if they die? What if you’re not sure? What if their parents are the in-laws from hell? (Have you seen “Meet the Fockers?”)
Marriage is risky. One in two end up in disaster. Many end in tears, followed by divorce. You head a million miles an hour towards your wedding day, thinking you’re about to get lucky. What if you’re wrong? Possible.
The upside of taking the risk is huge though. What if it all works out? What if you can’t imagine your life without them? What if you accidentally make a beautiful family together?
A friend of mine is about to turn 50. She has been single for the last 20 years. She’s afraid to take a risk with another guy that could be wearing a man baby disguise. So she doesn’t take the risk. There’s one problem: she’s painfully lonely. She wanted a family. Now it’s too late.
No risk = No love
You might regret a life without love. (Or you might not — hat tilt to you.)
Making babies is a risk
You could try to start a family. One of you may prevent it from happening due to things about your body that can’t be changed.
Or the process could work but the baby dies before it’s born. Or the baby is born but has all sorts of complications. It happened to a boss I worked with once. She had a boy. What a joy he was!
Then she found out he had autism.
He’ll need care for the rest of his life. He can’t clean himself. She does everything for him. It’s affected her career. She had dreams of becoming a General Manager. Not anymore. She and her husband spend their days caring for him. You know what she said to me?
“At the start I thought him being born with autism was a burden. Now I think it’s a miracle. I — get — to — do — this.”
What a transformation.
I felt emotional when she said that. She was quite selfish before his birth. Her autistic boy helped her find herself again and understand the meaning of life. Perhaps that’s what she was talking about.
Investing money is risky
I’ve made a large amount of money from investing in Bitcoin and Ethereum. Some of my friends think it was easy. They can’t see the risks I faced.
In 2017 both investments fell by 90%. Everybody ran for the exits. The narrative was “crypto is going to get banned by governments, run for the hills everybody!” I thought differently. I saw potential so I accepted the risk.
For years nothing happened. All hope was lost.
Then a global health crisis hit. Everybody got locked in their homes. The US government and others created trillions of dollars out of thin air to pay for the damage. Everyday people started to understand money printing and inflation. Bitcoin became the gateway to a new paradigm.
Prices went wild. Then Ethereum followed.
Today, people like me who invested in both assets appear to be geniuses. We’re not. We’ve endured regular 30%-50% drops in price and survived. That has led to 500% gains in the last year.
Huge gains don’t happen without risks.
The difference is I took a calculated risk. I did my research. I ignored the clickbait “Bitcoin is dead” articles designed to make the writer rich and make me pull the escape cord on my investments.
I saw what was in plain sight. Anybody could read the whitepaper. Anybody could read the books on Amazon about it. Yet many didn’t.
Research reduces risks so you can make informed decisions.
A side hustle is risky
The risk with side hustles is time. If you pick the wrong one or quit too soon then you throw away all the precious time you’ve invested.
That can hurt like hell.
About 5 years ago I gave up my career in music. I spent most of my life learning drums, being a DJ, and studying sound engineering.
I threw it all away. For nothing.
But no side hustle is completely a waste. Music taught me about creativity, and creativity is what I’ve unleashed in my writing. Still, side hustles come with risk.
You could end up spending too much time away from family. You could be unfocused in your job and piss your boss off. You could invest money to learn a side hustle and then have it still fail.
If you get it right, though, you can end up building something that becomes your life’s work. That’s what happened to me with writing.
The differentiator with side hustles is your ability to take a risk for long enough. Many people are far too impatient.
They don’t stick at it. They give up too soon. They hang around toxic folks who spew their fart-laced venom all over everybody they encounter.
When you think of the risk of side hustles over a 5 year period, it’s not that risky. You can figure out any goal in 5 years. But figuring it out in under a year? Near impossible. Unless you’re Einstein.
A social media account is risky
Social media has risks. You can get canceled. People can say sh*t about you. People can lie. They can screenshot your private DMs and share them with the world. They can place your name in a headline.
They can be so mean to you that you cry yourself to sleep.
It’s happened to me a few times, not going to lie. Your colleagues at work can read your writing. They can become upset with what you say. If you talk about your work then your boss could cancel you.
“Stop writing that nonsense online. It’s bad for your career.”
It happened to my colleague. He spoke his mind about politics on LinkedIn. He sounded a bit too angry. They asked him to take down the post. He got offended and quit in a blaze of glory. He burned every single person he had ever worked with, publicly, on LinkedIn.
We’re not friends anymore. Stupid.
The risks with social media are low though. If you don’t talk about controversial stuff and write daily rants about, well, everything, then you’ll be fine. That’s most of us.
The upside is you can build a small audience. You can help people. You can explore your creativity. You can start a tiny business off it. The benefits far outweigh the risk. Yet it scares so many people. I get messages all the time.
“It’s too much risk. What if people judge me? What if they hate me? I’m not an expert on anything. Who am I to say anything valuable?”
They’re wrong about themselves. Their life has enormous value. They talk to strangers every day in the street like a pro. Social media is no different.
Social media is only a risk if you forget to practice self-awareness. If you’re fair, kind, act as yourself and do it for the right reasons, it’s one of the best decisions you’ll ever make in life.
The biggest risk of all (that you’ve forgotten)
Now for the rest of your life you risk death.
It could be cancer. A car could run you over. The asbestos in your ceiling may finally cause lung problems that kill you. An invisible coroni-macaroni sickness could infect your gorgeous body.
It could start with a cough, then a sneeze, then a visit to the hospital. The hospital could be full. You may die waiting. Or you may get a bed. Hooray. The ventilator could be used. It may not work. You still may die. Crap.
Or you could survive the great macaroni plague … only to die months later from a scuba diving accident, while celebrating your newfound freedom from lockdowns.
No matter how well you play the game of life and manage risks, you still die. Game over. No second chance. Damn.
It all boils down to this
Without taking risks your life will suck. Big time.
When you don’t take a risk you cruise. Something feels off. You can’t quite put your finger on it. All that happens is you wake up each day and don’t really care about much. It’s a form of numbness.
The solution is simple: Take more calculated risks. Acknowledge the downsides, of course. But lean into a few more risks. Live a little. Don’t see the dark side of every opportunity.
Don’t ruin possibilities with instant skepticism.
So you don’t end up being jealous of those who do take risks and have a few tiny successes. Instead, take a few risks and discover your own potential that’s been there all along.
Without risks you can’t get rewards.
Everything has a cost. The question is, are you willing to pay the entry fee?
This article is for informational purposes only, it should not be considered financial, tax or legal advice. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.