Sunday, December 13, 2015

A lesson from Mark Twain about Going Out On a Limb

mark twain, out limb fruit

One of the foundations of success, is a willingness to go out on a limb, when necessary. In fact, in business and in life generally, all meaningful progress is preceded by the decision to take a risk, go out on a limb and do something.

Risk, security and progress

Starting a family, starting a business, relocating – all of these life changing decisions require us to go out on a limb. One of the oddities of life, is that even though the decisions that lead to the most progress in our lives are preceded by risk, we tend to opt for certainty instead. The pull of the comfort zone is clearly too strong for most to resist.

The challenge with opting for the mediocre decisions, is that mediocre decisions lead to mediocre results.

In our strive for certainty and security, it’s easy to justify playing it safe. After all…

  • If we don’t state our opinions, our opinions can’t be criticised.
  • If we don’t start a business, the business can’t fail.
  • If we don’t ask that amazing person for a dance, they can’t say no.

Mark Twain and going out on a limb

Yesterday, I discovered a wonderful quote from Mark Twain, which describes the importance of going out on a limb far more eloquently than I can.

Here’s what he said: “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is!”

One of the great ironies in business is that playing it safe is the riskiest thing we can do. As a result, the risk averse business owner places an incredibly low ceiling on his or her potential. They reach a plateau with their business, because their safe decisions can only take them so far. One safe decision after another sees them spin their wheels. It’s heartbreaking.

Here’s an interesting fact:

In over 6000 years of recorded human history, no one has ever achieved anything outstanding by playing it safe. No one. The message is clear. You need to either accept the necessity for calculated risks, or settle for way, way less than you deserve.

In short, if you want 2016 to be significantly better than 2015, it’s time to embrace the changes you need to make. Meaningful improvement can’t happen without meaningful change. And if you still think that change is risky, wait until you see the cost of trying to play it safe.

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Originally posted on this blog

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