The SCN Encourager – Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Risk – and its surprising reward.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 8.21.05 AMOften it’s difficult for us school folks to think outside the box. (“Oh yeah? Says who?” you ask.)

Well, I think it’s difficult for us to get “outside of the box” because we operate within such a gigantic box each and every day. Very few people deal with the range of issues and workplace personalities that we do. One moment we may be working on a short virtual school tour video (very risky stuff for some of us) and later that same day we may be evaluating our school safety plans (with total risk avoidance our goal).

This is probably the curse for us “Jack or Jill-of-all-trades” types. Whether it’s quickly responding to a parent or a situation, or just trying to carry out a plan to meet a deadline, we’re frequently all over the place using whatever tools and resources we can to get the job done. Our real-world “box” doesn’t have a tight narrow focus. It’s huge and ever-changing.

It’s also possible that given all of the domains we toggle between, you might argue that we actually think and operate outside of the box all of the time; that I’m all wet. Your point would be that the very nature of our jobs does not even provide the comfort of a clearly defined box. In fact, for us, there’s no box at all. Hmmm. This makes sense to me, too. Good thinking. So I’ll concede the point. (See, I’m easy.) 

As a member of our local Rotary Club and Rotary International, I receive the monthly  magazine, The Rotarian. It provides updates on Rotary’s work to eliminate polio, improve sanitation in the poorest of communities, and distribute micro-loans to bolster local economies. But it offers much more – especially in the approach it uses to “get itself out the box.” Yes, the magazine keeps members in touch with lots of detail and program news, but it does so with a balance of other articles promoting Rotary’s reason for existing. The necessary minutiae is never allowed to smother the bigger purpose.  

Take, for example, this month’s feature section in The Rotarian. It’s all about overcoming fears and taking risks. Whether we’re in a box or not – for many of us confronting our own fears and self-doubts is scary business. But this is where we cultivate our inner confidence and joy according to author Frank Bures, who writes that “the greatest threat to our happiness is doing nothing.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 8.23.14 AMBures interviewed Frank Fairley, a professor of psychology at Temple University, who has researched risk extensively. Fairley sees risk as an essential ingredient to life. Fairly noted “Helen Keller would say over and over, ‘Life is an incredible adventure or nothing.’ How many people don’t view life that way? They view life as a series of dangers to be avoided. Nuclear war. Toxic environment. Bad food. Danger in the streets. They focus more on things to be avoided than the things for which we should live. It’s a recipe for disappointment.” (Fairly well stated by Prof. Fairley, don’t you think? p. 34 The Rotarian 2013)

The Rotary International website offers several corresponding pieces on this whole risk thing. This link will take you to an article about four risk-takers who took action before common sense and other factors persuaded them otherwise.

I never thought about risk-taking having such an influence in my personal happiness. My usual scorecard for life is success (where I have some) and failure (where I have a grand sum). But Helen Keller’s quote challenges me on this in a good way.

So I’ll keep writing to you Monday through Friday. It’s risky for me. I miss the mark more than I’d like, but it’s kind of fun and I’m learning a lot in the process.

And I hope you’ll keeping reading. This is a risk for you too, as you step into the “great unknown” every time you open up one of my daily Encouragers. But think about how much happier you’re becoming. You’re expanding your risk-taking!

Tom Page, SCN managing editor
01:30:13 6536


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