Taking Risks: Stepping Outside The Comfort Zone

To succeed you must first take a risk

While planning my own escape from convention, I have read about those who have succeeded in living their dreams, rather than settling for the life we have all been told we are “supposed” to live.  In doing this, I have discovered the following:

  • There is no success without taking risks and stepping outside of your comfort zone
  • Expect to fail several times before achieving your success
  • The most opposition will come from those who are closest to you
  • You must learn how to legally navigate the “system” for your own best interest
  • Learn from those who have succeeded in their endeavors


The illusion is that it is nice and safe in the comfort zone – living the life we are told we are “supposed” to live.  Go to college.  Get a job. Find a spouse.  Buy a house. Have children.  Save for retirement.  We are never warned about the realities of life and the possibility that we could fail, even if we’ve played it safe. We are not told that we will spend most of the rest of our lives paying off student loans; that there may not be a job available once we graduate; that your spouse’s job may be outsourced to India; that the children will cost $222,360 (upi.com) each;  that your house is now worth less than when you bought it due to the sub prime crisis; that your retirement may be lost in the stock market and the government is about to raise the retirement age and cut benefits.  Most of these things are beyond our control, and therefore make them the biggest risk of all, but we don’t see it.  I know that I would rather take risks on my own terms knowing the possibilities rather than being an unwilling participant in the “comfort zone” that turns out isn’t so comfortable after all.  Here are some famous people who were not afraid to live life on their own terms and take risks:

Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell, Inc., dropped out of college at 19.  He first started his computer company in his college dorm room. Forbes ranked Michael Dell #11 in its 400 Richest Americans.

Henry Ford never graduated high school, but went on to start one of the largest automobile manufacturing companies in the world, Ford Motor Company. He’s also credited as being the first auto manufacturer to use an assembly line.

Rachel Ray hasn’t had any formal culinary training, but has several cooking shows on the Food Network,  a talk show on NBC, several best-selling cookbooks, and her own magazine.

Steven Spielberg, is a movie director and producer.  Spielberg was denied acceptance to film school and dropped out of California State University, but that didn’t stop him from co-founding DreamWorks, a major film studio that’s produced several of the highest grossing movie hits and Academy award winning films.


Why is everyone so afraid of failure?  In our society we are taught that failing is bad – that it is best to play it safe.  In certain situations this can be wise advise, but does it lead to innovation?  Harvard Professor Stefab Thomke doesn’t think so.  In his book Experimentation Matters he states “Failure is not a bad thing…it is so important to the experimental process” (44).  Some of the most influential people of all time became so through failure that led to success.  As an example, Thomas Edison once said “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”  WOW!  Just imagine what our lives would be like today if he had decided to give up on his dream. I am not afraid to fail.  I am more afraid of never trying.


Most of your opposition will come from those closest to you.  They mean well because they want you to play it safe.  There are always consequences with risks such as failure, but as we’ve already discussed there is no success without failure.  You must learn to be patient with them, but don’t give in – you may regret it if you do.  Then there are those who just don’t understand.  “What is wrong with the status quo?”  they may ask.  That same person may have a secret regret that he/she never wrote the novel they’ve always dreamed of.  Then there are those who are just plain jealous and angry.  They are mad that you are following your dream and they never had the courage to take the risk.


Be willing to do the research and find what it takes to make your dream happen.  Interview those who have succeeded and learn from them.  Rather than allowing the “system” to deter your progress, learn how it works so you can legally navigate it to meet your own needs.  You never really stop learning, so don’t ever think you are an expert in anything.  After all, as Nicholas Butler once said, “An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less.”

Good Luck!