As I think back on my life and career, the best aspects have come from taking risks while those times I’ve “played it safe” haven't typically ended well. The most dramatic example for me was my “safe” corporate job that resulted in unemployment vs. the “risky” approach of venturing out on my own that resulted in an exciting career.
What products and services do you create?
Building products around the default, the safe choice, the offering for the masses, is terribly risky.
Trying to appeal to everyone means someone else can make a similar commodity that costs just a little less or is a tiny bit faster.
However, there is a sustainable business in a niche market, for those people Seth Godin calls weird, for individuals who think for themselves.
A true leadership position comes from serving those who avoid the default position.
How do you build a career?
I distinctly remember nearly two decades ago when I left the corporate world to start my own business. I chose to live by my wits and be responsible for generating my own income.
At that time my family and friends who worked in the corporate world told me what I was doing was risky. They said being a corporate employee was safer.
But looking at work like a financial portfolio would suggest the exact opposite.
No financial professional ever advises putting all of your assets into one investment. Just ask those who worked at Enron how their retirement portfolio fared. The best way to invest is to spread your money around.
For me, I believe the same is true for income and for nearly twenty years my “portfolio theory of work” has paid off. Some of my project succeed and some don’t. But on average, at least a little money comes in every month.
That’s not true with a corporate job where you either have full income or you have zero (if you are let go for any reason).
I’ve been fired three times. When I was “looking for other opportunities” I had no income. That’s risky!
There are many ways to look at the safe vs risky choice
Should you go to graduate school?
Should you take that job on another continent?
Should you start a blog?
Should you stop advertising and hire a journalist to create content instead?