Footwear designer Armando Cabral says, “I don’t think you have to be an Ivy League graduate, just a risk-taker.” There are people that I’ve met who are incredibly well put together and rule followers to a T with perfect resumes. But what I’ve noticed is a common component that they all share, which is the lack of passion they exhibit.
It’s normal to go through life feeling lost and unsure about what you want to do, but it’s even scarier when people often allow fear to paralyze them. Maybe they’re too self-conscious or don’t want to let others down by making the “wrong” choice. So, instead of actively working towards something they care about, they’re too busy trying to uphold an image because they mistake pretension for success.
It’s ironic. Sometimes, we do all of that image building because we’re too afraid of failing and being anything less. But in a lot of ways, we fail immensely when we don’t take risks. People are often afraid of tipping over the glass and spilling milk that they forget about the bigger picture: the spill can always be cleaned and the glass can be refilled. Think about how many times you said no or turned down an offer because you were afraid of messing up or getting hurt.
I used to be that way and I think what held me back was instant gratification. I’ve always been hungry for knowledge and when I didn’t have all the answers at the time, my fear intensified that often stopped me in my tracks. Graphic designer Pum Lefebure puts it best. She says, “Successful entrepreneurs have to have the ability to dream big. When you dream, you do so alone. It comes from somewhere inside —from your gut, from your past or maybe from your experiences. You have to create a vision of exactly what you want. Of course you don’t know how the hell you’re going to get there, but you dream. You figure it out.”
When you try to plan your whole life from the very start, you’re bound to have a bad time because you set the bar high with very little room to maneuver around. It leaves you with the cold impression that you’re not allowed to welcome anything else that comes along the way. Consequently, you miss out on a lot. Most importantly, you don’t give yourself a chance to be human. Nowadays, I make it an effort not to live my life passively.
But, what do I mean by that? Passivity is such a subjective term. It means something different for everyone. For some, it means being stuck in routine and not traveling or seeing much of the world. For others, it means wandering aimlessly without establishing any real roots to build something meaningful. The same rule applies to passivity’s opposite term: activity. To me, living an active life means constantly setting career goals to get better at something I care deeply about.
Three years ago, I took the risk of switching career paths when what I was originally pursuing felt like a dead end. That’s one piece of advice I have for you: never ignore your gut feeling. I remember walking to my car when the day was done from the internship I quit shortly after and thought, Is this it? Is this my life? But, it didn’t have to be. I think you take more risks when you begin to realize you always have more power than you initially thought.
At the back of my head, there was always a voice that told me I wanted to write. I’d feed that passion by keeping a blog and a journal. But my hunger and desire to write more voraciously only intensified when I was frustrated with the condition I was in and the sad events I experienced. I didn’t pursue writing more seriously until I hit rock bottom. I have cancer, mountains, ramen, and terrible corporate companies to thank.
When I wrote the draft to my very first short story, I felt like a child again, awake and refreshed like the torrential downfall you experience in the spring. Words like “forward” and “progress” became my favorite because they were all I could think about. I felt unstoppable when I finally allowed the sun to seep into rooms of long forgotten dreams and opportunities. It was incredibly liberating and life-changing.
To me, living an active life also means loving honestly and openly. If I didn’t take the risk and make the first move on my boyfriend, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. Would I still be daydreaming or writing stories about the ideal person to love? The thing about heartbreak and rejection is that it’s so easy to put up walls and guard your heart like crazy the next time someone new enters your life. But, vulnerability is essential and it’s not stupid nor uncool to take a chance. Culture nowadays makes it trendy to keep people and relationships at arm’s length, but you miss out when you run away from the growth you can experience with someone else. There’s still a lot I don’t know about, but I’m not scared to find out.
I’m not saying that taking risks in life gives you a fairytale. That’s far from the truth. But they can help you dust off the abandoned dreams you’ve left sitting on your shelf, and guide you to finding the love that you deserve. Risk is the start of something new, challenging, and confusing —but ultimately, also rewarding, fulfilling, and wise. It’s important to recognize that risk alone is only half the battle, too.
What sustains the life and vision you are working towards is resilience. Passion is tested not on your days of light and glory, but when you’re left utterly alone in the darkness without a star in sight. Your fears and the urge to give up will always be there to trip you when you least expect it, but getting back up and trying again is the key behind any story that makes it to the end.
What are some things you regretted in the past because you didn’t take the risk? And what do you think you can do now to make up for those inactions? Share your story with us by leaving a comment down below!
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Williams, N. (2017). The Kinfolk Entrepreneur: Ideas for Meaningful Work. New York, NY: Ouur Press.