They say that “there is no reward without risk.” I have no idea who “they” are, but whoever they are, they are very wise. Throughout my adult life I have always been a risk-taker; and I’m not talking about the adrenalin-pumping type of risks, such as bungee-jumping, or the questionable type of risks, such as gambling in Las Vegas. I’m talking about life risks, the kind of risks that require a perfect balance between practicality and fearlessness, mixed in with just a dash of insanity.
The first big risk of my adult life was at the naive age of 20. Never having left the country (with the exception of the 6 hour drive across the border to Canada), I put myself on a plane and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Spain, where I would live for an entire year. I landed in Madrid, a world away from my family and the only life I had known, not knowing a soul and surrounded by ham legs. This move would not only be one of the most life-altering experiences I have ever had in this life, but it would also later lead to a dream job: a job planning educational student tours to Spain and Latin America (www.acis.com); a job I did for years and loved; a job that would allow me the incredible opportunity to travel regularly to Spain and Latin America. This risk to move to an unfamiliar world in Spain would prove to be the first in a long line of bold life choices.
In 2003, after 911 had severely impacted the student travel industry, I made another bold decision: to move to Washington, DC, another city where I didn’t know a soul, and once again leaving behind a life of familiarity. In Washington, DC I would attend graduate school at GW University, where I would study International Affairs, putting me on my desired path of becoming a Foreign Service Officer. At least that was the plan…However, it didn’t take me more than one semester in DC to realize I was not a bureaucrat. After much deliberation, I made the brave and scary decision to leave graduate school. After all of the work (GREs, college applications, pre-requisite courses) I had done to get myself to GW, this was no small decision and a risk I took with slight trepidation.
Two months after taking the risk to leave graduate school, I would find myself walking around the halls of the United Nations, and looking out on the pristine waters of Lake Geneva, shimmering with the reflection of the majestic, snow-capped Alps behind. “How did this happen?”, you might ask. You see, after leaving school, I began immediately looking for work, honestly having no idea what I was doing or where I would land. In a surprising turn of events, I was offered a position with a human rights firm in DC, which sent me to Geneva, Switzerland for three weeks to work at the Commission on Human Rights at the UN. As I sat there overlooking the breathtaking scenery, chills ran up and down my spine. I knew that if I had not taken the risk of dropping out of graduate school, I would not be having the incredible experience of standing in the halls of the United Nations in Geneva. That was a pivotal moment in my life; the moment when it crystallized for me that life is all about taking risks.
Upon returning to Washington, DC, and now clear that the decision to have left school was the right one, my short-term assignment at this job was coming to an end. To my surprise they offered me a full-time position. Here I was having dropped out of grad school, and virtually out of money, and I was being offered a full-time job. Perfect, right? Well yes, except for the fact that my gut was screaming at me to not take this job; my instincts told me that although it was a good offer, that it was not the right path for me. Without any other plan or idea of where my future would lead, and facing the fact that I would soon run out of money, I went against the advice of my parents (here’s where the important dose of insanity comes in!), I took another risk and turned down the job. I knew how long my money would last and I knew that I would need to find a job before the end of August. On August 24th, just as I was reaching my deadline, I was offered a different job: a job with an internet start-up, an incredible opportunity which would take me down a completely different path.
Taking this job with my first start-up (along with the decision to turn down the first offer) would turn out to be another brilliant decision, and a risk well-taken. Within a few months I had been promoted to my first management position, and I proceeded to gain the fantastic experience of building out a brand new department, and furthermore to have the exciting and invaluable education of going through my first acquisition. (Beyond that, little did I know that the decision to take this start-up job would five years later lead to another start-up position in San Francisco.)
In early 2007, after almost three exhilarating and incredibly educational years at my first start-up, and now with solid management experience under my belt, I made the decision to leave my job. For all of my life I had wanted to move to the west coast, and at this point in my life there was a love worth fighting for in Los Angeles. So I quit my very stable and well-paying job in Washington, DC, packed up everything, and drove the 3,000 miles across country to Los Angeles. However, this would prove to be the riskiest decision that I had ever made. You see, this man had just chosen another woman over me, and I was stubborn (or stupid!) enough to try to fight for him anyway.
To my dismay, I arrived in Los Angeles to find myself rejected, heartbroken, jobless and friendless. And even worse, I had the very bad timing of moving right before the recession was about to hit in 2008, and this meant that I was in store for two years of on and off unemployment and instability. I was about to enter my “dark night of the soul.”
Well, as stupid a risk as that appears to have been, it would prove to be the most daring, and in turn the most rewarding I have ever taken. And by this point I had learned that the amount of reward we receive is directly proportionate to the amount of risk we take. This move across the country to California would change my life in dramatic ways, all for the better: it would lead to my discovery of Anusara yoga, which would save me from a very dark period; it would lead to a powerful “spiritual awakening,” which would lead to me being a writer right now; and it would lead to a series of jobs that would eventually lead me to San Francisco, and to the brilliant life that I now enjoy.
And this leads me to the latest (and hopefully best!) risk that I have taken. In January I lost my job at my second start-up, and I found myself at a crossroads. I could either continue to look for work in the corporate/start-up world, which had become my niche over the previous years, or I could make the very daring decision to follow my bliss and work at becoming an inspirational writer. On one hand I could choose the path that society says I should follow, the path of the stable career, salary and benefits; on the other hand I could choose to follow my heart into the unknown. Choosing the latter would go against the practical advice of everyone around me (including my parents), and it would absolutely require an ample amount of insanity. So which path do you think I took? If you’re reading this, I think you know the answer.
Since I made the fearless decision to follow my bliss and walk down the unknown path of the writer, in just three months I have launched my work in two different languages, and I have been beyond humbled to receive more than 5,000 fans in over 30 countries (now 25,000 fans in 35 countries!) ; all amazing souls who are supporting and encouraging me along my path.
So I ask you this: when you are standing at a crossroads and are faced with a major life decision, the question is “to risk or not to risk?”… You tell me.