July 7

On The Perception Of Safety

“Don’t listen to those who say ‘you taking too big a chance.’ Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today.” – Neil Simon

Safety is not an option.

I once printed a series of bumper stickers for my team that read “Safety Is Not An Option”. (In retrospect, it’s possible that a bumper sticker wasn’t the best forum for that message.) The principle that I was trying to instill is that safety and brilliant work rarely coincide. Our best work occurs when we do things that might very well fail, but where the payoff for success is great.

Consider this: when was the last time you gathered everyone around and told the story about a time when you chose the easiest and most comfortable option?

How many projects have you completed that you point to with pride, knowing that you did the most convenient and safe thing?

Of course not. All of our stories and moments of deep satisfaction are sourced in times when we did the right thing, even when it was the difficult one.

Playing it safe is dangerous because it prevents us from exploring options that only become visible when we get out on the edge, where things might fall apart.

Now, I’m not advising you to throw caution to the wind. Risk mitigation is an important part of any work that we do. But mitigation is not avoidance. Risk is a necessary element of doing effective creative work.

When you always choose the safest route you take the greatest risk of all: never knowing what you might be truly capable of accomplishing.

Question: Is there a place in your life and work where you are taking the safe route, even though you know that something more might be possible?

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