07/23/2014 11:41 EDT | Updated 09/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Three Secrets to Unravelling Risk

Ever felt like risk stopped you from doing something you truly desired? Ever had risk keep you up at night?

On Getting Comfortable With Risk...

One day as I sat across from a well-intentioned pitcher who wanted to 'pick my brain' and 'buy me a coffee' (two things I will write about another time), it occurred to me that I could not pay attention to what he was saying because I was too distracted. He kept using this word: Risk.

"The risk is ... there is a downside risk ... the upside risk is we grow too fast etc., etc. ... we feel confident we can manage these risks."

Having been around entrepreneurship since my days in the womb, I have been hearing this word spoken almost as often and for 30 some years: Risk.

I thanked my colleague in risk (because as a matter of how he positioned entrepreneurship, this is all we do, risk) for the coffee and went back to my car to Google the definition of the word risk.

Risk -- A situation involving exposure to danger.

Since people always talk about 'getting comfortable with risk' I thought I would Google 'comfortable'.

Comfortable - Providing physical ease and relaxation.

So, by definition, when we become comfortable with risk we have been provided physical ease and relaxation by the very presence of a situation involving exposure to danger.


Why would we ever want to associate relaxation and ease with danger? Is it that we want to cope with risk by inviting the tiger to tea. If we make friends with it, it won't be so bad?

I think this is utterly absurd.

If there is a tiger at tea -- I have no intention of becoming comfortable. I want to be fully aware of exactly how in danger I am, I do not want to snuggle up with risk and get comfortable. I want to remain as uncomfortable with risk as it proportionately exposes me to danger.

Together with the first British woman to ski to the North Pole -- Sue Stockdale, I was invited to give a session at Dell Networks Headquarters on the subject of Risk.

Here are the top three things I learned about risk when delivering this address with Sue (some were already conscious but others were unconsciously known and brought to light):

1 - You are not born risky nor un-risky.You experience the world and you adapt.

As a result of what you experience, when and how, you develop risk tolerances and risk aptitudes. These areas where you tend to be more or less risky help us understand others and ours behaviour around risk -- this is called a Risk Type. You can find out your risk type by doing an assessment online.

2 - Most people significantly underestimate how risky they live their lives

Until they look at how many times that get in a car, consume chemicals in the foods they eat and look back at all of the decisions they have made which in hind sight either made or broke where they are today, most people have no idea they take on risk about once every hour or so. One's true risk profile is defined one decision at a time -- we should pay attention to all decisions when we consider our own risk profile.

3 - Assuming risk is a bigger deal than most of us think.

I do not only mean taking on risk when I say assuming risk. Assuming risk also covers two aspects we seldom think about. The first -- assuming what others' risk profile might be. The second -- assuming anything that can be proven in order to uncover true risk.

Now - my number one way to address risk, and how I learned to tolerate the likes of those who focus so very much on the word 'risk':

Opportunity - A set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.

Assuming that what we call risk is among the set of circumstances which are involved in doing just about anything worth doing, I have re-defined risk to align more with opportunity as follows:

With truth and trust...from the Barefoot Boardroom,

Kelsey Ramsden

P.S. - I have a Guide to Risk coming out on the subject of Risk and how we can re-frame that work in our lives to allows ourselves to see opportunity and possibility more often and more clearly.