Risk takers are at the forefront of progress. Imagine if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin hadn’t set foot on the moon; Richard Branson hadn’t taken a punt in competing with the record industry giants; Felix Baumgartner hadn’t taken a leap of faith and broken the sound barrier.
For these entrepreneurs and thrill seekers, being fearless and taking risks is part of daily life and can be lucrative and lifechanging. But taking a risk isn’t just reserved for the business-savvy or adrenaline junkies among us, and small steps can result in big victories. The online realm has dramatically changed the way people interact with each other and provided a new vehicle to take a step into the unknown. But has it impacted the way in which we take risks, and if so for better or worse?
How far would you go?
Taking risks can mean different things to different people, at different stages of their life or career – bringing achievements and successes that far outweigh the initial feeling of anxiety or worry. Indeed, laying feelings on the line or making your opinions heard in the boardroom could lead to the start of something special and open new doors.
With the UK largely considered to be a risk-averse society, the online world can provide many more opportunities for people to get ahead and get noticed. Social media channels and online forums have given people a way of expressing their opinions, but they have also provided anonymity and a barrier to hide behind.
Indeed, our own research into risk taking – both on and offline – found that an overwhelming three quarters of Brits (73%) feel that others are more willing to lie online. This could be attributed to the fact that the digital world feels less real for nearly a quarter (23%) of adults. But despite the role played by online platforms, in the main it is not creating a wave of risk-taking across the UK, with only 10% of people prepared to take a risk online.
Virtual vs. reality
Doing things face to face – whether it be flirting or asking for a pay rise – is still the de facto way for those who want to take the plunge and get ahead. When it comes to love, online dating sites and the art of flirting and acting coyly through the medium of apps have made people braver. But whilst one in four (21%) credit their romantic situation to a risk they have taken online, over a quarter (28%) still feel more comfortable flirting face to face on a date. With nowhere to hide on a real date, people may well feel they can be themselves, rather than putting on a persona online, in pursuit of a partner.
Reaching the next rung on the career ladder is no different. Risk taking is seen as a way to get ahead and become a success, whether this is done online or in the real world. Those who sit back wish they had taken more risks, with our research suggesting that over a third (35%) of Brits feel they would be further ahead in their career if they had only taken a risk.
But is it worth it?
Despite the evidence that taking risks is a good thing, by their very nature you don’t know if they are going to pay off until you’ve taken the plunge. There’s also a big difference between taking a risk and being reckless. For those who weigh up the options before taking a risk, it could be the best thing they’ve ever done.
For producer of the Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show, Richie Firth, the online world gave him the push and confidence he needed to find love. “I may have a big personality on air but in reality I’m pretty shy. I got together with my first wife when I was still at school so when we split up I had no idea how I was going to meet anyone new. I have to be active on social media for work and managed to pick up quite a big following. Natalie listened to the show and started chatting to me on Twitter. Through the magic of social media, I was able to let my personality shine through and we are now happily in love and living together … and there is a baby on the way! She is absolutely gorgeous, I’d have never had the confidence to chat her up in a pub!”
Others have embraced social media to set up new ventures and take a completely new career path. Holly Stevens, entrepreneur and founder of Wowsers in your Trousers, left freelance writing for vintage fashion designing – hanging the whole move on a Facebook page. “I left my job in PR to go freelance – but then I was at a vintage style nail salon wearing a ’50s style dress I’d made. The manager loved it and when I told her I’d made it myself, she asked me if I wanted to redesign and make her salon uniforms and placed an order for ten. I got home and set up a Facebook page on a bit of a whim. The salon order ultimately didn’t work out, but with a little help from social media I started getting orders from all over the world – with one of my most coveted brands, Irregular Choice, calling my work ‘amazing’. By February 2017, I was booked solid until November – and I’m currently taking orders for 2019!”
There are many more stories like those of Richie and Holly that show how risk taking – in all forms – can reap big rewards in love and life. But as we have already highlighted, if approached in the wrong way, risks can backfire – and many people are still reluctant to use online platforms as a way to take the next step due to a fear of the unknown.
De-risking your next step
Whilst it might not be the first port of call for everyone wanting to make the next move in their career or love life, there is no escaping the fact that the online world has enabled more opportunities. If done safely, the use of digital channels can help you become braver and take a risk you might not otherwise have considered. The following three steps should form the foundation for going for it:
Step 1 – Be yourself
Unfortunately, not everyone is who they say they are online. Whether you’re on a dating site or toying with a new love interest over Twitter, it’s best not to give away too much personal information too soon – just in case. The person on the other end could have an ulterior motive, and if you get too carried away, it could catch you out and prove costly. On the flip side, you shouldn’t use online forums to hide and make statements you wouldn’t dare to say in public. Things you say and do online can come back to haunt you.
Step 2 – Be vigilant
When looking for your next career move online or simply doing research on an unfamiliar website for a new business venture, it is best to remain vigilant. Never enter your personal details on a site or download anything until you can be sure the site is legitimate and secure to use. If something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Step 3 – Be ready
You don’t know when an opportunity will come along that could change everything for the better. Being prepared and protected when online doesn’t mean you aren’t a risk taker. In fact, it allows you to take a risk when the right time comes, without fear of being reckless or exposing yourself to anything which might cause harm or get in your way.
Being fearless and moving out of your comfort zone – in your work, home or love life – could be the best thing you ever did and change your life for the better.