All about risk…

Posted on September 26, 2011



I vividly remember a conversation I had with a friend about 8 years ago.

I was having a moan and she gave me great advice.

At the time, I had a nice stable job reading news bulletins on a big commercial radio station. I enjoyed it, but I wanted more. 5 minute news bulletins every hour get monotonous after a few years – I wanted a bigger platform.

My dream had always been to host my own programme. I didn’t mind whether it was a talk show or a music show, I felt comfortable with both. The point was I wanted more control and creativity, the chance to engage with the audience, to hear their phone calls, their concerns and their emotions, to have that interaction instead of just reading things out from a script.

So I sat in my friend’s flat and asked why the bosses wouldn’t give me this opportunity. “Why can’t they see what I’m capable of?” I wondered out loud. “I’d be very capable of doing more than I do just now, I could achieve my dream”, I went on.

I reeled off a list of names of broadcasters I admire who’d had the kind of career I wanted. Simon Mayo, Nicky Campbell, Chris Evans, Chris Morris, Richard Bacon and several others.

My friend listened as I let out my angst then delivered great advice.

“Everyone you’ve just mentioned”, she said, “At some point in their life, to get where they wanted, have taken some sort of risk. You haven’t yet”.

She was absolutely right.

I was on a nice, stable, secure path, doing something I enjoyed but that path didn’t lead where I wanted it to go.

Coming off it frightened me. “What would people think?”. “What if things went wrong?” “What if the opportunities I hope to take advantage of don’t come my way?” “What if I throw away something I quite like and don’t get the thing I really want?”

What if, what if, what if.

I’m pretty bad at taking risks. But since that conversation in 2003 I’ve learnt that a calculated risk is rarely as frightening as you think, often leads to bigger and better opportunities and is a fundamental part of living and growing as a human being.

There are many reasons why the likes of Simon Cowell, Simon Fuller, Ryan Seacrest, Chris Evans, Piers Morgan, Oprah Winfrey and the rest of the world’s top media personalities are so richly rewarded for what they do.

One of them is that they disregard the safety of following someone else’s pre-determined path. They carve their own route. They take chances. They know they’re good and they bet on their own success. A lot of people don’t.

There are people doing breakfast shows on small local radio stations who have it in them to host the breakfast show on BBC Radio 2. But they never will. There are young men and women who would be perfectly capable of doing a top job hosting X Factor. But they never will. There are people filling in spreadsheets who could be incredible photographers, singers, novelists and so on.

It’s not easy and for some of us, quitting a job and putting ourselves out there, going for what we really want goes against all our instincts.

But sit down and think about it. Calculate that risk, and see if there’s a way you can do it.

Do you have friends and family members you can trust to give you good advice? They’ll tell you if they think this risk is misguided. But they’ll encourage you if it makes sense.

Think about the upside and the downside. If it goes wrong, what will you do? Perhaps it would be fairly straightforward getting back to where you are now if it all went wrong.

If you’re up to date with your payments some mortgage providers will allow you to take a mortgage holiday of up to 3 months. Now what might have seemed like a plunge into the unknown seems a bit more concrete. What else can you do to cover yourself if things don’t work out as you hoped?

The real risk in life doesn’t concern work. It concerns issues around health and family and when it goes wrong it comes like a bolt out the blue and there’s little you can do about it.

Getting a job in the media requires taking some sort of action on your part. It’s difficult to get in, you need to learn new skills, and you might not be any good! Putting yourself out there, going after any dream, feels like a risky business!

There are loads of self help books and websites that deal with all this “live your own life” and “take the plunge” stuff. I’ve read tonnes and when it comes down to it, nobody but you can take that step.

I’ve asked some of my friends and contacts who work in the media to share their thoughts on risk. You can read what they say in “comments” and, of course, you can add your own.

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