I believe in living on the wire. Taking risks. That "Safety" is the enemy.
Yes. This goes against the traditional American societal values taught across the country, except in places like The Valley, Manhattan and Hollywood. You know the words. The ones offered up as guidance meant to protect us from the crazy world of instability: "Go to school," "Mind your teacher," "Get into a great college," "Get a degree," "Find a sensible job," "Don't challenge your superiors," and on and on.
I heard that same rhetoric from family, teachers, friends, strangers... Pretty much everyone in the small cities and towns of North Texas where I grew up. Of course, there have been some shining examples of exceptions like my dad, Stephen McReynolds, who taught me to question everything and use my own brain (thank you!); friends like Nicole Jordan, Tameka Kee, Melissa Rowley, and Kyra Reed who have always said GO FOR IT when I've lacked certainty; and one of my mentors, Mike McGinley, who has consistently told me to live on the edge of my comfort zone.
But these voices were too far and few between. And I know, I'm lucky to have had any at all.
As a child, this fear-based dictation on self-preservation played on repeat, a constant threat to my entrepreneurial tiger spirit. But as I heard the drum of "safety first," it conflicted with the backdrop of life that I witnessed. Lines of frustrated humans in traffic, depressing stories about pointless jobs and awful bosses, and cities full of Little Boxes with plain, white walls and cheap beige carpet.
I was only a child when I vowed this would never, ever be my life.
Since that point, I've been called a "Risk Taker" and a "Maverick," often, in tones rife with judgement, contempt and even disgust. (Thoughts on these projections to come).
Being a risk taker means never taking anything at face value. It means never believing in the glass ceiling, the existence of a silo wall or that a dream is unreachable. It's living with Freedom of the Mind.
Of course, there are many consequences of choosing to be free.
Some consequences are great -- everybody always knows who you are and what you do. Some are tough -- insecure people will engage in warfare against your boldness. After thirty-plus years, I find the experience vacillates between the two. Daily.
Constant change, up-and-down, back-and-forth. Like getting public accolades for great work, press hits using words like "Kick Ass" and even being backstage as the center of attention of my rock star crush. But then there's the small and big failures that come with constantly pushing boundaries ... the scraped knees and bruised ego, and even having my position "Eliminated" at a moment's notice. Raise your hand if you've heard that song.
But still. No matter the consequence, I believe risk-taking is truly LIVING LIFE.
I can't breathe any other way. I feel panicked. Bound and gagged. Stuck in traffic, headed to a pointless job, to afford a little box of cheap carpet.
No thanks. I'll keep that childhood promise. Please... Plaster it on my tombstone:
"Did Not Cave."
What about you? What are your thoughts on risk? What risks have paid off? I want to know your biggest and boldest stories. Be brave.
And, of course, if you want to push your company or brand to new levels, take advantage of social and emerging media, break through the noise of the competition, or create change within the organization, email me here. It's my life's work.
By Gretchen Fox, Social Architect at grtchnfx