On more than one occasion I’ve been asked, “Is there any special significance to your email/website name?”  Well there is a story behind it that will lead to this week’s theme.

Four years ago I was invited to participate in a US Marine Corp Leadership Conference held at MCRD Parris Island.  The program was designed to provide educators with an understanding of the opportunities available to graduating seniors through the Marine Corp, and the manner in which the Marines transform young men and young woman into United States Marines.  Additionally we were provided with tremendous insight into the organizational leadership principles that guide this branch of our armed services.

The one-week program provided participants with both classroom and “hands-on” experiences.  As part of our daily program we were assigned to drill instructors who “guided” us from activity to activity in much the same manner as they guided their recruits.  My DI, Sergeant Cheryl Milton, quickly help me understand that keeping my eyes straight ahead and limiting my conversation with her to “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Ma’am” was in my best interests.

The day prior to leaving we were provided the opportunity to witness “The Crucible”, which is the final challenge of recruit training. It is a 54-hour training exercise that validates the physical, mental and moral training endured throughout recruit training. We were provided with an opportunity to complete a number of physical challenges that are part of Marine training.  It was the rappelling down a seven-story tower that stopped me in my tracks. DI Milton got in my face and said, “What’s wrong Wolf?”  I replied, “Ma’am I am deathly afraid of heights.”  She roared with laughter and called out, “Sergeant-Major come over here and listen to this.”  She said to me, “Tell the Sergeant-Major what you just told me!”  I repeated my statement to him. He didn’t laugh.  He went eye to eye and nose to nose with me and said, “Wolf, Marines embrace fear.  We wrap our arms around it, embrace it and make it ours.  Do you understand???”  I said, “Yes Sir!”  He continued, “Wolf, you will never get this opportunity again.  If you don’t climb that tower today and rappel down, it will haunt you the rest of your life.  Do you understand?”  I replied again, “Yes Sir”  Still nose to nose with me he said, “It’s time to embrace the challenge, get going!”  The rest is history, I climbed the tower and rappelled down. It felt fantastic!

That one week experience had a profound impact on me.  It changed me!  Not only did it deepen my appreciation for our service men and woman, but it helped me to understand that our fears and challenges are meant to be embraced, and that we need to always go for that brass ring!  

So why, at times, are we hesitant to take that risk, to go for it?  Margie Warrall, a contributor to Forbes Magazine suggests, “Often we know what it is we want to do, but we still don’t do it. Why? Because we are innately risk averse and afraid of putting our vulnerability on the line”. Her contribution, Take A Risk: The Odds Are Better Than You Think, identifies and develops four core elements that we tend to misjudge when assessing risks. Warrall concludes the article by providing three questions we should ask ourselves as a means of overcoming our tendency to “play it safe”.

So the equation is simple, “if the chance of success x benefit of success > chance of failure x cost of failure = go for it”; if only it was that easy.  Brad Stulburg, writer of  Outside’s, “Science of Performance” column and co-author of the forthcoming book, Peak Performance, considers the idea of practicing risk-taking now to assure that you will “go for it” at a later point in time when the stakes are higher.  His piece, The Science—and Art—of Taking Risks – How to put in the work now to ensure that you will go for it laterproposes that our skill level or expertise impacts our decision-making when it comes to taking a risk.  As such, the best way to assure that we will “Embrace the Challenge” in the future is to practice taking risks now.  To help incorporate it into what you do on a daily basis, he shares 7 guidelines designed to expand your comfort zone and facilitate risk-taking.

With that in mind, I have a challenge.  Lets see if you embrace it as a means of starting your “risk-taking” practice.  This week I challenge you to be a source of positivity and happiness in the lives of others. How you ask?  By simply giving out one sincere compliment each day to someone you don’t know.  It could be that cashier who did such a nice job packing your grocery bag.  How about the crossing guard who makes sure the kids get safely across the street?  Or that parent who is doing a remarkable job of grocery shopping and keeping two or three kids in tow?  It’s a risk to approach someone you don’t know and compliment them, but you will find it is a risk well-taken.  Who knows?  It could become a habit!  Embrace the Challenge.