By Michael Gunther

The other day I was wondering… Am I playing it too safe? Am I pushing and stretching myself enough? Am I learning and trying to develop my skills to a new level? Am I operating to the fullest of my abilities? Am I taking risks and challenging the status quo? As I pondered these questions (just another quiet day in my head—LOL), I thought maybe in running a business it’s okay to play it safe.

Did the companies that went out of business during the recession play it too safe, or were they too risky? Is it possible to play it safe and still achieve accelerated growth? Are there any more questions I could ask myself before I attempt to answer these? (That was a joke, I think).

When I’m referring to “too safe,” I’m speaking about not pushing yourself to a new level of performance personally as a leader as well as a business. Sometimes we get comfortable with how things are running, and we take a breather from all the personal growth opportunities that present themselves. Maybe we also think we need to let the last growth spurts settle.

But this reminded me of my friend Patty from college who’s aunt (at the time in her forties, which seemed so old then, but not anymore as I approach 50) told me the passion I had at that time for all the goals I wanted to achieve would go away and I would eventually settle for the status quo. Wow, could she have motivated me even more to prove her wrong? Was that the attitude of someone who had given up on her goals and just chosen not to work hard for what she wanted, or did she truly share the secret of life and happiness? (Even though she wasn’t all that happy with where she was in her life.)

My belief is that you should always be learning, growing, and becoming all that you can be. I’m not saying join the Marines (unless you want to), but we all have one life and one opportunity to truly develop our skills and talents to the best of our abilities. So I guess it may be time to begin to challenge myself to learn how to grow to that next level of leadership. To challenge myself to learn and do things I have always wanted to (like playing the piano), and to focus on the journey along the way to make sure I’m not missing the process in search of the goal.

So playing it safe as I see it isn’t necessarily about taking financial risks, but bold steps in innovation, skill development, and learning. I think businesses and individuals who choose not to stay with the status quo are those who seem to be achieving greater results and have a greater sense of overall happiness and accomplishment.

Maybe the companies that survived the recession were willing to not play it safe anymore with the way they managed their businesses. They were not going along with the status quo saying “the economy is bad, so my business is bad.” Instead they were saying “the economy is bad, so how do we need to challenge ourselves to change in order to adapt and thrive?”

Bottom Line

One of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain goes something like this: in life you are either moving forward or backward, no one ever stays the same. You are either growing or declining and every day you have a choice as to which direction you will go. I definitely want to be moving forward, so I guess it is time to get out of my comfort zone again. I will keep you posted on the results. Are you also ready to wake up your business or self from a status quo stupor?

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services.

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