Risk

If you keep up with Technology and/or U.S. Business news, you’ll hear the latest stirrings about Facebook releasing an IPO.

This is interesting on a multitude of levels including (but not limited to) the following:

1) Facebook, possibly one of the more enigmatic private companies, will now be publicly traded.

Investors, and interested folk alike, can now access the previously private internal financial workings of Facebook. This allows for a real insider’s look at how the company operates and carries out its business.

2) Facebook represents the Millenial generation of Tech start-ups going big.

The Baby Boomers have Microsoft and Apple; the Generation Xers have Google (and arguably, LinkedIn and Twitter, and possibly Amazon-this depends on where you draw the generational divide and whether Amazon’s multimedia can rank it within the same genre), and the Millenials have Facebook. There has been a multitude of organizational behavior/organizational psychology research on how the generations behave at work, and view topics like work-life balance, leadership, organizational citizenship, etc., so my linkage of company to generation, is likely not unfounded – each of these companies has it’s legacy rooted in specific circumstantial factors, and is also a creation of an individual from a specific era in mankind’s history.

3) Facebook represents a shift in the social consciousness, and the story of a risk.

Social networking has become, possibly, one of the hottest trends across electronic mediums (by that I mean, electronic devices, as well as software, the Internet, etc.). Back in the 1960s, J.C.R. Licklider predicted that humans would one day use computers less as robotic calculators, and more as facilitators for interpersonal interaction and communication, and boy has his conjecture proven true. Humans love to communicate with one another, and if that communication can be brought about via email, or IM, SMS, MMS, video chat or social networking – it’s only a matter of time before such mediums become absorbed into social consciousness; into modern human existence.  Facebook has brought socializing to our fingertips from any location: home, a bus, while traveling, in the classroom, etc. We now “meet” others online (sometimes even before we meet face to face), we “check in” at local restaurants and exercise classes, and we post and share photos, memories, commentary, and more.

Now, social networking/ social media, was not purely Facebook-induced. We all remember the MySpace, Friendster… I even had a Bolt account, back in the day. What Facebook, and its recent IPO, represents though, is the growing power of social networking in modern life.

And while I could write and reflect on social media and social networking for hours, what I really want to talk about is the second portion of # 3 up above: the story of a risk.

We’ve heard Zuckerberg’s accounting of how the founding of Facebook occurred, and that has been augmented by the Facebook movie that came out last year, as well as countless interviews with other influential individuals involved in the process.

What’s most amazing to me about Facebook, though, is that it required Zuckerberg and his colleagues/co-founders to willingly take on enormous risk. Like some of his predecessors (i.e., Gates), Zuckerberg decided to leave college, move across country, and put all of his energy, resources and time into an idea.

An Idea.

Think about that. It’s pretty amazing actually. Granted I could mention Edison, Graham Bell, Einstein, lots of prolific folks who took giant risks all in pursuit of furthering an idea they had. But how often do folks like that come along in life? Not too often.

I’m not writing in order to wax poetic on the great thinkers, inventors, and extraordinaires – do I admire them? Absolutely. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

What I’m trying to say is that every now and then someone takes a giant leap of faith, a huge risk, and they create something incredible. What I wonder is, how do they do that?

I’m struggling with this idea right now, the idea of taking risks. At the point of life transition that I’m in, I’m faced with many decisions:

– what kind of relationships I want to have

– what career to pursue (either for awhile or longer term)

– what lifestyle I want to have

And probably others, but those are the major categories that my thoughts tend to fall into these days.

The thing is, throughout my life (and I’m a Millenial here – in case any of you are wondering, or think my experiences could in fact be influenced by generational variables), I’ve been rewarded for being “right,” not for “taking risks.”

Case in point: gold stars for good grades (doing my homework and assignments correct and on time), praise for working well with others, comments on executing a dance step accurately…etc.etc.

But no: gold stars for writing a report on complex topics or in a creative way (i.e., as a poem), praise for trying to teach others – even if unsuccessful, comments on improvised steps….etc.etc.

Now, I’m not going to argue that folks should be commended for all kinds of risk taking – some risks can be a bit foolish or bring about more harm than good (i.e., driving too fast on a wet road, investing in a historically unprofitable venture, sending lots of soldiers into completely uncharted terrain with no game plan, etc.) – I’m merely suggesting that if I, as a child, were encouraged to try things where making mistakes, or even outright failure, was a viable outcome, and then taught that sometimes failure and mistakes can be just as valuable as “getting it right” – I might have a completely different outlook and set of behaviors as an adult.

The things that freak the crap out of me right now (i.e., failure, shame, being misunderstood, repudiation), might still freak me out, but maybe on a much smaller scale – if I’d been taught that mistakes were totally valid results; if I was encouraged to go for something even if I could fail.

On the flip side, I’m not saying one should encourage another person to pursue something they’ll 110% fail at doing (for instance, don’t encourage me to solve 10 calculus equations in 20 minutes as an ego-boost; I will feel completely demoralized- or furthermore, if someone really doesn’t have any scientific aptitude don’t encourage them to pursue Medicine or Zoology). We all have our gifts, the things we’re accomplished at or naturally talented at, and that’s wonderful because it makes us unique.

But, we can all be encouraged to push ourselves, to take the “road not taken” (i.e., path less traveled) as Robert Frost says, even if that road might lead us to a few ditches, forks, or otherwise confusing turns that we’re just not sure how to handle (or if we can handle them) at first glance. Because you know what? I can fail, I can fall flat on my butt with lots of shame, ridicule and taunting, and learn something – or I can be right and correct with gold stars and accolades, but always wonder “what if”…what if I’d chosen the road not taken?

I want to be more comfortable with instability, indecision and change in my life. It’s difficult – I’m a perfectionist, a careful, meditative planner, and above all, I want to execute it all with precision and grace. That’s a really tall order, and it might just prevent me from following my own intuition and creating my own Facebook – a project from an idea that I believed in; a project that I could nurture or not, but knew that to nurture would require great risk and deviation from the straight and narrow.

*Deep Breath* I’m trying to build up the courage…to take a risk…to take risks…to move forward.

If you have any insight to share on your own journey/ risk taking/ courage – please share.

Thanks for reading,

S

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About regulardaze

Hi, I'm Sarah. I enjoy photography, dancing, travel, theatre, delicious food, and learning (constantly, about almost everything imaginable). I currently live in Austin, TX. Thanks for sharing in my thoughts and adventures! :)

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