The 5 Important Risks You Need to Take for a Full Life


Life is a lot like a poker game.  Players put down their money and take a chance at either winning the jackpot or losing their shirts.  There is both an element of luck and skill involved, but essentially it all comes down to what you’re willing to risk.

But let’s back things up a bit and examine the people who simply watch the game.  They’re not willing to put the risk involved to see what happens.  And that’s where the metaphor ends.  You have a choice about playing poker, the game of life though is much different.

Taking Important Risks

If life is really like a game, then the key difference would be that you really don’t have a choice in whether you want to play it or not.  It’s one big table and everyone has a seat.  But that difference doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to risk.

In fact, I think of life and risk as the same thing.  Everything about life is a risk.  You could get into an accident or become ill at any moment.  These are the everyday normal kind of risks that you often can’t avoid.

It’s the risks you have to actively search for and make a part of your life that matter most.  They can bring you pain if they go wrong which is the biggest reason people avoid them.  But they also make life worth living when they go right.

The five important risks in life are:

1. Caring about someone else

If you’ve ever gone through a bad break up or dissolved a friendship, you know just exactly how heart-breaking it can be to care about someone else.  But that shouldn’t stop you from caring about another person.

Letting another person get close to you and caring about them deeply can be a scary thing.  It would be so simple for them to break your trust and hurt you.  But the beauty behind letting someone get close to you is that you get to know each other deeply and your bond together is tightly woven.  That can be a great feeling.

2. Learning and trying new things

There’s always an element of risk when you’re trying something new.  Starting a new activity like rock-climbing or surfing can be scary at first, but a large part of the fun is overcoming that fear.

The same goes for big life changes.  If you want to go to grad school or move to another part of the world, you have to just jump in and do it.  It’s impossible to do these incredible things without accepting a little bit of risk.

3. Following your passions and dreams

How many people’s dreams have been squashed before they ever got off the ground?  It’s a sad, but true statement that most people never take their dream past the planning stage.  Everyone should follow their dreams no matter how unlikely they think it will happen.

I started following my dreams because of a simple thought: when else am I going to do them?  You can’t wait for things to happen to you.  And it’s not as if you have another life waiting for you after you die so the best time to pursue your dreams will always be right now.

4. Failing

The downside to taking risks is that there is always a chance of failure.  Otherwise they’d be known as sure-things.  Of course failure remains the biggest obstacle for people to take those risks, but it shouldn’t stop you.

I’ve read that big companies in Silicon Valley will often pass over their own people for promotion to hire people who had started up companies that later went bankrupt.  Apparently, they like the guts of people who will risk bankruptcy and failure.  That’s a good lesson for life in general.

5. Your viewpoints

Everyone has a view of what’s going on in the world and how things work.  Expressing how you feel can be risky since you don’t know how people will react.  You might find some people will be hostile to your opinions.  You might even find that your opinion is misplaced.

Many people are content to just sit on the sidelines and refuse to stand up for their viewpoint.  But you can’t be afraid of saying how you feel because it might be unpopular or wrong.  People who are making the most out of their lives have unique opinions and insights into things.  A big part of living life fully comes in being able to express those points of view.

Risks are Necessary for a Full Life

I can definitely see life as a game and the risks we take are just the ante we use to play it.  And even though taking risks means you might fail from time to time, it is better than not taking any risks at all and living life below your potential.

Besides, when you see life as a game it changes your whole attitude about winners and losers.  Games work best when even those who lose still have fun.  You might as well take a risk and see what you’re capable of.  Otherwise, you’re just sitting at the table watching life play out in front of you.
photo credit: banspy

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  1. I can’t even begin to tell you how timely this post is for me. I read it and really laughed at myself. Something important you mentioned that I didn’t realize was actually a risk I had to take. Sometimes when the road has a bend ahead…it gets hard to truly trust. Well, all I can say is that you have given me some much needed validation :)


    • I’m glad you like the post, Veeh. Sometimes when the road has a bend in it, you have to pick the riskier route. It can be a hard choice, but when you trust yourself, good things can happen.

  2. Hey Steve,

    I love it. It’s a very interesting perspective – particularly the idea that once you’ve identified some aspect of life as a risk, you can ask the question ‘what else am I going to do’? or what are the alternatives?

    This is particularly pertinent in today’s world where some might say due to any number of factors (terrorism, financial crisis, increased media exposure etc) life is more ‘risky’ than before. But what are you gonna do? Lock yourself in a room? That’s not living, is it?

    Obviously there is a scale to things so the risks you take have to be managed, but gently pushing your boundaries is always a great idea…

    • I agree. Pushing your boundaries is always a good idea since like you say, you can’t lock yourself in a room. That really isn’t living to me.

      I can see what you’re saying about some people identifying the world as more “risky” now than ever. I’d disagree though. I’m an optimist about the world and I think it’s never been a safer time to live than right now. Still, even if the world wasn’t all that safe, you still have to go out and take some chances. That especially goes for the things listed in this post. They are true essentials for a full life.

  3. Hi Steve,

    That is fantastic. I am so aligned with your opinion.
    “You might as well take a risk and see what you’re capable of. Otherwise, you’re just sitting at the table watching life play out in front of you.”

    You are so right. I traveled in latin America last year (Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina) for 4 months in backpacking mode. People usually ask me if I was afraid. They say that they couldn’t take the risk and do something like that. I always tell them that danger exists everywhere and if they are scared they should stay at home and not even going out for a drink. Even in that case they could experience something dangerous (en seism for instance) that may provoke their death !

    Now I am in Greece, in the middle of the crisis. The situation is getting crazy and people ask me why I left my job in Paris France and went back in Greece…
    My answer is clear (I use your phrase): “I want to take the risk and see what I am capable of. Otherwise I am just sitting at the table watching life play out in front of me!”
    I cannot wait for the crisis to pass away. Otherwise my life will pass away too!
    Thank you for sharing

    • Lenia,
      When I traveled for months through Asia, I was asked if I was afraid there too. For some reason, people thought it was really dangerous. I had one person even compare to where I was going to a war zone! How ridiculous is that? But you’re so right that danger is everywhere and you can’t let the possibility of something bad happening stop you from seeing the world.

      I think that’s cool that you’re in Greece during the economic crisis. That’s where history is being made right now and you’re right there to see it. You might see some really interesting things.

  4. Steve,
    so well said again. This is exactly how i approach all of my great life accomplishment both big and small. How much have i got to lose, am i willing to lose it. It’s like playing the odds. I accept that i will lose some but if i plan carefully i know the chances are that i will eventually have some wins and i always do.

    It’s so sad that many people let the fear or risk of not succeeding stop them. Becuase there is always risk. I’ve known people who haev played it safe their whole life only to have a big bank account in life. To me that is not living. Sure they have a lots of money now but life is what shapes us not having a big bank account. I digress though.. This person is a good friend of mine and we often argue over this matter.. He used to be an old boss of mine and he’s very successfull in the business world… i still think i’m right though.. :)

    • I think of it like playing the odds too. When you take a risk, there is always a chance that it won’t work and you’ll end up losing. But take enough well-placed risks and you’ll end up winning a few. It really is like a poker game. Nobody wins all the time, but if you just win a little more often than you lose and you’ll make some big gains.

      I’ve had friends who’ve played it really safe too. While there isn’t anything wrong with safety itself, but if your entire life is based around keeping that safety at all costs, you’ll never figure out how far you can take yourself. There is only so many things you can do, see and experience when you play everything safely.

  5. Hi Steve,

    I was watching CNBC’s show on Walt Disney and someone said he had a sense of destiny, I googled the term and your site came up and I read this article.

    Its a great and timely article. Many people (myself included) are stuck on jobs wear there seems like or no chance of any real change. Instead of hanging on the sidelines take a risk and make a change.


    • Hi Dav, that’s an interesting way to find the site! I’m glad you like the post.

      When it comes to having a job you feel stuck in, there definitely is a good reason to take a risk in finding something better. There’s nothing worse than being stuck doing something every day that you don’t like. Taking a chance on a big change like that can be very worth it in the long run.

  6. I agree that taking risks is an integral part of leading a full life, and I myself have been described as having “a huge risk tolerance.” It is really important for people, before they take a risk, to realistically take into consideration how they will feel, how they will react, and what will happen in their lives if they fail. Will they be able to survive? Will they be able to recover? Not all risk taking ends with success. Even if you fail, it’s still best to take the risk, rather than spending your life wondering what could have been and regretting and resenting not having followed your dreams. :)

    • You’re very right, Sabina. There are always things to weigh before you decide to take a risk. You very well might fail and you need to make sure that whatever you’re doing isn’t going to destroy you if things don’t work out the way you plan.

      I agree that you still need to take risks though since you’ll always wonder what might have happened. Think of it this way, if you take a risk and it works out, you’ll be better because of it. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll be wiser because of it. That’s a win-win situation.

  7. Love this post! I completely agree with all of the “risks” you’ve listed. For me, failing is the hardest risk to take, or perhaps it is a consequence of other risks. If I may, I’d suggest another risk for your list. I think allowing yourself to express your true feelings is just as important as all the others. This can often go along with caring about someone, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a romantic thing. True self expression can be both really frightening and really liberating. Try it sometime!

    • Hey Ruth, you’re right that true self-expression can be a frightening thing. I know that I’ve expressed myself in the past only for it to blow up in my face. But you have to do it sometimes. It really can be a liberating feeling to know that you’re not afraid to speak your mind.

  8. Hey Steve,

    Love the post. Here is a question. How does one know if they are in a position to take risks? Whether it be financial, relationships, etc.

    • That’s a good question. I’d say it depends on the risk and how big it is. Talking to an attractive person can be done at any time. Moving across the country for a job should take a little longer to do. You’d have to think about it first to see if you’re ready. I’d say that if you feel prepared for it, you’re probably ready.

  9. A great post, as always, Steve. These points are both profound and pretty basic all at the same time. I’m kind of stuck on the first one at the moment. Caring about someone is a big risk, especially if you’ve been burned in a relationship. It can become very difficult to trust and really expose yourself again. But I’d say that (if not all of these) is a necessary risk in life, because human beings are not intended to be solitary creatures.
    These are all good reminders for me now as I am still making my way down this path of great risk and change in my life. It’s a slow process (VERY slow), but still feels very right, even on the days when I feel the doubt creeping in.
    Sometimes you really do just have to jump in and not think too hard about the logistics. I mean, sure, some things require specific planning but sometimes you just have to go for it when the moment is at hand and figure out the details as you go. It’s a wild ride, that’s for sure!

    • Yeah, it can be difficult to trust another person if you’ve been burned in the past. That’s what makes it a risk. I think most people have had a relationship or two that didn’t go well at all. But a lot of the good things in life are risky. Sometimes you just have to jump in and take a chance.

  10. what do you think of trying high building parkour that’s popular at the moment?
    (parkour is the running and jumping off buildings) thanks


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