On Risk-Taking and Anxiety
The Power of Writing It Down

7 Dangerous Things Every Adult Should Do

On yesterday's post about creative anxiety and risk-taking, Holly McDonald left me an excellent link to an article on risk-taking at the Open Education blog, which, in turn, led me to Gever Tulley's TEDTalk on 5 Dangerous Things You Should Allow Your Child to Do. 

We learn as children to stop taking risks, but I think that as we become adults, we can be even more risk-averse, mainly because we also feel like we have more to lose.

Although I love Tulley's list, in some ways I think that these ideas (like naps) may be wasted on the young. I had some ideas of my own for a new list and put out a call to Twitter for feedback from my network. Some very cool people responded (credited below).

So here is our list of 7 Dangerous Things Every Adult Should Do. Note that none of these suggestions involve sharp instruments. 

1. Quit a Job You Hate Before You've Found Another One

In 1998, I did a weekend career retreat for myself.  Between Friday evening and Monday morning, I realized that I needed to leave my current work situation. I spent that summer immersing myself in self-learning (Amazon became my best friend) and fabulous conversations with interesting people. By September, I was feeling re-energized and full of ideas and began to develop my business. I haven't looked back since. I'm not sure I'd be where I'm at now if I hadn't jumped without a net. Getting out gave me time and space to get clear about what I wanted and to develop my ideas and skills. Even if I'd chosen to work for someone else at that point, I would have been in a better, clearer position to sell my value to a new employer.

Rosetta Thurman agrees with me. She made the same decision and look at her now! This one was on Holly McDonald's list too.  

2. Quit a Job You're Too Comfortable In

Atul Sabnis suggested this one and I think it's a GREAT idea that ties in perfectly with yesterday's thoughts on creative anxiety! This one is much harder to do than quitting a job you hate, although doing work that's comfortable may be more dangerous than doing work you hate.

3. Talk to Strangers

I've written before about the dangers of homophily, more commonly known as "birds of a feather flock together." I think that the web and social networking sites make this tendency even worse, closing us to new ideas and new ways of doing things. Seeking out people and groups who have different beliefs can feel dangerous, especially if they threaten ideas we hold dear. But we can learn a tremendous amount from the experience. If you're in Philadelphia, NYC or Washington DC, you can take it a step further and invite a stranger to dinner.  

4. Publicly Admit You Are Wrong

A few years ago, I was doing a week-long training session on facilitation and "Thursday Syndrome" set in. This is when we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel and people start to get testy. Someone challenged me publicly and I was too tired and emotionally drained to handle it well. I ended up stopping our session early and telling the group that I'd screwed up and we needed to take a break and re-convene the next day. This was VERY hard for me to do, because I was supposed to be teaching facilitation skills and I thought I'd completely blown my credibility. But the next morning, I had MORE respect from the group because they realized that sometimes when you're facilitating group sessions, the only thing you can do is say "I screwed up--where do we go from here?" 

5. Say Yes When You Feel Like Saying No

Holly suggested this one and it's a great dangerous thing to do. Try agreeing to that crazy idea or hare-brained scheme--or even the suggestion that you do something on the spur of the moment. Often when you feel the pull to no, that's just resistance at work that keeps you in your comfort zone, making you think small and miss opportunities.  The next time someone asks you to do something and you feel "no" forming in your mouth, try saying "YES!" and see what happens. 

6. Say No When You Feel Like Saying Yes

Also from Holly, this is the companion to Dangerous Thing # 4. Saying "no" when you want to say "yes" is about setting limits. It's about saying you are going to choose what YOU want to do, rather than what someone else wants or conforming to expectations. "No" can be a liberating word that also gives you the space and freedom to say "Yes!" to other things. 

7. Fall in Love . . . And Allow it to Win

This Dangerous Thing Came from Kate Sloan Fiffer and it's awesome:

Picture 2

Passion is what can drive and sustain us. It does this in ways that "practicality" never can. When we commit ourselves to something for the love of it, rather than because it's practical, I find that the "practical" stuff tends to work itself out anyway. 

So that's our list of 7 Dangerous Things Every Adult Should Do. Have you done any of them?  What would you add to the list?


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I have done all of the above and friends and family often look at me with a puzzled look, a shake of the head and then a small sile starts to spread across their face. Some even admit they wish they could too.

The only thing I would add is that the "web and social networks" are tools and do nothing except what the user chooses. I use both extensively for the very purpose of gathering new information, stepping outside my knowledge area and often follow people on Twitter that I frequently have a quick negative reaction to something they post-I keep following because they teach me two things: 1) that other people don't think or believe in the same things in the same way I do and that is important to remember and 2) it makes me question my own beliefs and assumptions and helps me when working with others, to remember that just because they use the information, coaching or prompting I provide differently than I would, it may just be better.

Hi Karin--I hear you on family and friends giving that puzzled look. So true

I agree that social networking tools that do only what we choose to make them do. I've found that I have to be deliberate, though, in using them to find and "listen" to people who have different opinions than I do. We tend to be attracted to those who are like us and want to follow the "Me Too!" crowd. At least for me, I have to challenge this all the time and ask myself if I am listening to people who think differently than I do for exactly the reasons you mention.

Thanks for the great comment!

Michele, thanks for the great reminder to critically re-examine your life every now and again.

I find it helpful (when I'm feeling stuck) to select someone whose life I admire (for any reason) and focus on the things they do or the things they're involved in that I specifically wish I could replicate in my own life. Then I try to make a to do list of the steps I could take to make those things a reality! It helps me remember that anything's possible if you can find the way.

Thanks, Kelly-that's a great point! And I like that you follow up with action steps of things you could do to make it happen. I've found that the hardest thing is actually taking the time to re-examine your life. We need to give ourselves more permission to do that!

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