Though every venture is not likely to work out, but you have to start taking risks and get out of your comfort zone. It helps to start early when you are young, but you are never too late to start since we are living in a world where the biggest risk you can take is not taking any risks. Erica Jong, author, says it well in her letter to her granddaughter Beatrice Jong-Fast Greenfield in the 40th Anniversary edition of her famous book Fear of Flying on Kindle: "Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Everyone makes them. Don’t be afraid of risk. It teaches us more than safety."
A good example of this in real life is Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
When he was young, his dream of becoming a worm farmer was dashed when worms he was farming escaped, and he got an early taste of failing. Did he give up? No. He was just getting started. He was constantly taking risks and thinking out of the box. For example, in high school for a Shakespeare class, he was assigned homework to write a sonnet. He did not like the assignment, so he thought outside the box and wrote fourteen lines of Morse code. He was resigned to the fact that either he was going to an A or an F. When he got the homework back, he got an "A+++++++++++." He writes in his book "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose," that "I think that’s when I learned that, even in school, it sometimes pays to take risks and think outside the box."
After high school, he was admitted to Harvard University. At Harvard, he dabbled in many things that would help him learn, grow, socialize and profit. He was constantly exercising his risk muscle and willing to go outside his comfort zone which would help him to take bigger risks and not get disappointed if things did not work out and abandon his dream.
After graduating from Harvard, he accepted a job from Oracle as a software engineer, but soon got bored and left in five months.
He and his roommate started a side project while at Oracle at building websites for small businesses and formed a company called Internet Marketing Solutions. They built their first website for a client for free, so they would have a referenceable customer and learn from the experience so they can start getting paying customers. Once they got a first customer who was going to pay them $2000 to design, manage and host the webs site, they quit their jobs at Oracle and were now entrepreneurs in real and not dream. The reason for leaving Oracle was simple as he writes in his book that "we wanted to run our own business and be in control of our own destiny. This wasn’t about the money, it was about not being bored." He did not know what to expect but as he writes that "We were ready for an adventure."
Soon they got bored with web design work and stumbled on a new idea called Internet Link Exchange (ILE) which they later called Link Exchange. The idea was to display banner ads for those who visited a particular website. It was an emerging advertising model for the Internet. The company grew rapidly and at one company meeting Hsieh proclaimed "There will never be another 1997." But again they got bored and eventually sold the company to Microsoft for $265 Million.
According to the agreement of the acquisition, Hsiehhad to stay at Microsoft for a year so he could vest in peace, meaning staying with a company and often doing little work so he can sell all of his stock options at the end of the vesting period. But knowing Hsieh's nature, he forgoes 20% of his stock options, so he wasn't bored doing uninteresting work. The gain of freedom was worth more than the pain of boredom which he detested. Hsieh was interested in things that aroused his passion than money.
After leaving Microsoft, one day, he received a voicemail from Nick Swinmurn about a website that allowed him to sell shoes. He had a dream of becoming the Amazon of selling shoes. Initially, Hsieh was skeptical, but upon further due diligence, he realized that there was a huge untapped opportunity so he once again became passionate and joined the company and eventually became the CEO of a company that became Zappos. Zappos was later acquired by Amazon for $1.2 Billion. Hsieh finally built a company the way he envisioned that allowed him and others to work there for the passion of doing good work rather just chase money. He is still the CEO of Zappos.
Tony is always looking to go on an adventure which is something he started early and still pursues today with passion. You can learn this same lesson from reading Tom Sawyer. Tom was always looking for an adventure that later paid off when they found the treasure hidden by Injun Joe in a cave.
In the book, Tom Sawyer goes on an adventure pretending to be a pirate. He is joined in this adventure by Joe Harper and Huckleberry Finn. They were all willing to take a risk and get out of their comfort zone. To act like a pirate, they all took on pirate names: Tom was the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main, Huck Finn was the Red-Handed, and Joe Harper was the Terror of the Seas.
They sailed to the nearby Jackson Island to start a life as pirates. Tom had a vision of being a real pirate where they "have just a bully time— take ships and burn them, and get the money and bury it in awful places in their island where there’s ghosts and things to watch it, and kill everybody in the ships— make ’em walk a plank.” Though they did not become a real life pirates, but they did have a lot of fun getting out of their comfort zone and learned how to survive by taking risks.
They also learned that at some point in any adventure you are going to miss your family or your familiar environment and want to quit. That happened to all of them, but Tom kept everyone on the island when he revealed to them the secret plan he had contrived. It worked, and the boys decided to stay a little longer and continue their adventure.
It is hard to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. There is a lot of discomforts you have to go through, and it is easy to give up. But you have to stay focused when it gets lonely and hard. The boys stuck it out and left on their terms They found out that the life of a pirate is hard and failed, but they did exercise their courage muscle so they will not be afraid to take on another adventure soon.
Taking an adventure in business and life are not that different and the book "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" illustrates that clearly that you have to take risks early and often and eventually you will succeed or at least have fun going on new adventures. And I think Tony Hsieh would say the same thing. We all have to be learn from Tom Sawyer and take risks and go on adventures whether it is in business or life. If you enjoy taking adventures, you may even hit a jackpot.