“My husband lost $100 million.”
Nope that isn’t a typo. Yes, my jaw dropped, too!
This was told to me by the wife of a couple who will appear on “Untying the Knot” – a new reality series on Bravo featuring Vikki Ziegler-Payne as the host and mediator. Vikki is a divorce attorney, a dear friend of mine, and a guest teacher in the Master the Language of Love + Money program.
It’s been several weeks since the premiere party and yet I am still dumbfounded. $100 million…lost…I can’t relate.
Risk creates wealth
I was relaying the story to a friend and expressed my curiosity about wanting to know “the story.” After all, there must be a story, right?!
Very matter-of-factly, he said: “He lost it the same way he earned it.” (I gave him my Scooby Do Huh? look.)
My friend went on further to say this person’s husband was a risk-taker and explained how anyone who has created wealth of any means – but especially to the tune of $100 million – didn’t do it without taking some risks.
Then, he punctuated his point with this:
“Not everyone can be broke.”
In a flash, the gossipy side of my curiosity was replaced by an immense interest in wanting to understand more about how this woman’s husband thought about risk. Specifically, I wanted to know:
- what decisions did he consider “normal” that others viewed as risky and vice versa;
- did he rely on data, instincts or a combination to make decisions;
- when did he realize things were about to go awry;
- what was he feeling and thinking as things were unraveling; and
- how (and when) did get he break the news to his wife. (From my conversation with her at the premiere party, I got a sense of how she reacted…)
When it comes to risk, a common tendency of our culture is to just focus on the two opposite ends of the spectrum, much like a see-saw, where one end represents being conservative (or risk-averse) and the other being speculative (or risk-friendly).
I bump up against this notion often with coaching clients and workshop attendees, and I frequently need to remind people that the prospect of losing money isn’t the only risk with which you must contend. You also need to consider risk in the form of any opportunity costs – and when it pertains to money that is the cost of being so conservative you don’t keep pace with inflation.
But a) there’s a broad spectrum of risk-takers, and b) there’s a lot of space in the middle. And, in my opinion, where you fall on the continuum is in direct proportion to the degree you feel comfortable wading in the water of uncertainty – whether that is about money, career choices or matters of the heart…
Traits of a risk-taker
Choosing to create your own business typically means you’re a risk-taker.
This kind of risk-taker usually has a higher threshold for uncertainty, and is slightly more comfortable with the prospect of going or being broke – relative to someone who hasn’t chosen the entrepreneurial path.
“If money is your hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.” Henry Ford
But, being a risk-taker doesn’t have to mean being reckless and/or impulsive.
Nor does it mean you’re unafraid – it just means you have the fortitude to do it (whatever “it” is) anyway.
Likewise, being a risk-taker in one domain of your life doesn’t mean that you are such in all areas of your life.
In much the same way you may view and approach money monolithically, you may discover you do the same with risk. And just as it is beneficial to peel away the layers of money, the same is true when it comes to risk. So, with this in mind…
- How do you define risk – and not just with regards to money? Is your definition holding you back, or helping to propel you forward?
- What does being a risk-taker mean to you?
- How comfortable are you with uncertainty – with the unknown?
- What role does comfort play in moving you from one end of the spectrum to the other?
- Where in your life do you play it safe (aka “playing not to lose); where in your life are you a risk-taker (aka “playing to win)?
I bet your answers will reflect what is true for our culture at large: you and I have an interesting (and complicated) relationship with risk.
There’s the infinite list of and excitement about what could go right if the risk pays off.
But there’s also the matter of failure, which many attempt to avoid at almost all costs – often forgetting that some of the best lessons come from failures.
Closely related is the fear of embarrassment – shame, guilt, and the preoccupation with what others may think – often prevent us from taking calculated leaps.
For some, the mere thought of going broke (or losing it all) is unfathomable. Actually experiencing it is really unimaginable!
“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” Soren Kirkegaard.
I certainly know what it feels like to be broke and wonder, “How the hell am I going to pay my rent?” But I’ve never lost it all; I’ve never gone bankrupt; and I’ve never gone hungry or without basic necessities – even during the leanest of times.
Admittedly, I have no idea how much was left over after this couple lost $100 million. But, it’s a dollar amount I can’t imagine losing. So, does that mean I don’t have what it takes to earn $100 million?
Here’s the existential question I’m wrestling with: What, if anything, is the relationship between what you’re willing to lose to what you have or can have?
I’ve been ruminating on this for the past few days – wondering if I would have made different choices if, when things got tight, I would have been able to withstand wading in the waters of uncertainty a bit longer — could I have stood on the edge of brokenness a bit longer…
Granted, none of us can re-write the history of our choices and the consequences thereof. But it’s kinda of enlightening to use takeaways from real-life experiences like this couple’s to learn how to make smart, risky decisions. Especially if they are decisions you won’t regret – regardless of the outcome.