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OPINION: HARVEY MACKAY — The ABCS of risk-taking

| August 16, 2020 1:00 AM

One of the reasons we admire people who take risks is that most of us are scared stiff at the prospect of taking risks ourselves. “I could never do something like that,” we say. The “something” we could never do might be anything from starting a new career to learning how to cook something. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes, it seems that the only people who can take risks successfully are the people who have nothing to lose.

You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes — but not so far that you fall off. To help you in these perilous times, I’ve come up with my ABCs of risk-taking:

A is for apprehension. Taking a large or small risk comes with a degree of apprehension.

B is for bravery. Afraid to try something new? Most people are.

C is for challenging. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. If you win, you will be happy. If you lose, you will be wise.

D is for differentiator. Some risks can make or break your business.

E is for enterprising. Thinking outside the box to find the information you need or to get the project accomplished is one of the traits that I really admire in people.

F is for flexibility. Nearly all the successful people I know have dealt with defeat, slumps, failures, change and adversities of every nature. The reason they are successful despite all that is they had the confidence and courage to face those setbacks and find a way to overcome them.

G is for genius. Recognizing a genius idea is one of the traits that characterize serious risk-takers.

H is for healthy. Approach risk with a healthy skepticism, then assess the real hazards and benefits to reach a reasonable path to fulfillment.

I is for inherent. From taking your first step to investing your life savings in a new venture, nearly every activity we undertake in our lives involves taking risks.

J is for jealousy. Never take a risk out of jealousy for another’s accomplishments, because it will end in disaster. Instead, study their success and learn how they turned risk into success.

K is for knock it out of the park. You can’t hit a home run unless you take a swing at the ball.

L is for leap of faith. Every major decision requires a leap of faith. In the final analysis, what your inner voice tells you is the best advice you can get.

M is for mission. A clearly defined mission makes managing risk considerably easier. If you know where you want to go, you can anticipate some of the landmines along the way.

N is for nerve. Risk-taking often requires nerves of steel to face the inevitable challenges and failures involved with big risks.

O is for originality. Hanging around with creative people helps you understand different ways of looking at the world and stimulates your thought processes to more original ideas.

P is for possibilities. When you see what is possible, you are more inclined to take a risk that will pay off.

Q is for quit. Quit complaining, quit dragging your feet, quit talking yourself out of what could be a fabulous opportunity because you are afraid to take a risk.

R is for realistic. Taking risks can reap big rewards, but only if the venture is realistic.

S is for stepping out of your comfort zone. No risk, no success.

T is for turtles. A turtle only makes progress when it sticks its neck out.

U is for undaunted. Understand that failure will happen. There will be some pain and failure. It’s part of life.

V is for visionaries because risk-takers don’t see things as they really are. Visionaries exercise a lot more control over the outcome of events.

W is for willpower, which keeps people hammering away. Determined people possess the stamina and courage to pursue their ambitions despite criticism, ridicule or unfavorable circumstances.

X is for eXhilerating. Young people especially take risks for the thrill and as part of normal development.

Y is for yes, you can. When others say no you can’t, but you see a better way forward, ignore the nay-sayers and tell yourself yes, you can.

Z is for zinger. When you get a zinger of an idea, zero in on how you can make it happen. There’s no greater feeling in business than to know the risks you take are paying off.

Mackay’s Moral: Sometimes it’s risky not to take a risk.

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Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website,, by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.