Risk taking and Adversity in Learning

Risk Taking and Adversitystring(25) "Risk Taking and Adversity"

One law of human nature is to want more – more horsepower, more serenity, more intimacy, more money, more power, more life. However, getting “more” is often an uncomfortable business. To reach the juiciest apples, we have to climb high, we have to reach out, and we take the risk of falling off the ladder.

This risk taking journey requires us to tread on uncertain ground and is often uncomfortable, whether physically, financially, socially, and especially emotionally. The path to attaining more is seldom paved with comfort; we spend a lot of time feeling awkward, inept, and out of our element. We grapple with physical strain, financial uncertainty, social unease, and the rollercoaster of emotions where terror and exhilaration dance a reckless tango on our nerves.

The Pursuit of “More” Takes Learning

Reaching for “more” necessitates learning, and learning makes us feel like children again, with all the excitement, wonder, and fear that blended together and colored our earliest experiences. It’s not the subject matter of what we are learning that is transformative; rather, it is our starting point and how far we’re trying to reach that make the difference.  Learning is not an absolute; it is relative, profound, and personal. The journey of a paraplegic rediscovering the complexities of walking is as intense as that of a teenager learning to drive. The uphill struggle of a downhill skier learning to snowboard and conquer the half-pipe aligns in spirit with a manicurist embarking on the entrepreneurial journey of running their own shop. The ordinary – something that is routine for one, becomes an extraordinary success for another.

Adversity – a Catalyst for Growth

In learning, we all start from adversity. We don’t make enough money, we dislike our job, we don’t know enough, can’t climb the mountain. Adversity is a catalyst for growth; it may creep into our awareness as dissatisfaction, a natural manifestation of personal growth, or it may be forced upon us by accident or catastrophic illness. Regardless of its guise, we intensely desire to move the arc from adversity to triumph, from struggle to victory. Along this path, we encounter fresh ideas, hone new skills, embrace evolving beliefs, and adopt new attitudes. We face down adversity and stretch ourselves toward success. We improve.

To improve, we must weigh the desired end against the pain of getting there.  No risk, no gain. If we opt for comfort and ease, we forgo the rewards of accomplishment. And yet, if we take to heart what professional athletes are taught and “do something every day that scares you a little,” we stretch our boundaries and move into new territory. As we move beyond our comfort zones, change occurs, we gain more self-confidence, making it easier to push boundaries, and emboldening us to confront and tackle greater challenges. We convert nervous energy that once sent jitters cascading within us into kinetic energy.  We become unstoppable.

In the grand tapestry of existence, our journey is a quest for “more.” More growth, more understanding, more mastery of self. This pursuit is not for the faint-hearted or the seekers of ease. It is for those who dare to defy complacency, who revel in discomfort for the promise of growth, and who understand that the pinnacle of success is reached through valleys of unease.

In the chasm between aspiration and achievement, amid the realm of uncertainty, lies the wonderful experience of growth—an eternal dance of risk, resilience, and reward.

I’d like to hear from you. If you have a story about how you took a risk or faced adversity in order to grow, share it in the comments.




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Keep the “FUN” in the Fundamentalsstring(38) "Keep the “FUN” in the Fundamentals"

I’ve observed that when it comes to business, having fun is something that is rarely talked about. It’s as if most people think fun and business are two completely unrelated and mutually exclusive things. Well, I don’t share that opinion at all. I think it’s important to have fun in business. In fact, I’ve learned that having fun is something businesses and networking groups alike need to do in order to achieve, and enjoy, lasting success.

I’m a systems and process guy. As the Founder of BNI®, I am a steadfast believer in the policies we have, which, by the way, were created by the BNI Board of Advisers, not me. I always say that policies are important because you need to have accountability in a corporation or an organization. However, you can’t be a dictator in the way you apply policy. Apply the rules more like Mandela than Attila. You can practice tough love, follow the fundamentals, and have fun.

Make Learning Fun

I believe in the experiential; I think it’s a great way to teach. When I taught management theory at a university, I had a lot of students that really disliked having to take a management theory class. But one of the things I did was to include a lot of experiential learning. For example, when I talked about specialization and the power of specialization, which can be quite a boring topic, I had an experiential exercise that showed the students how you can increase productivity and business through specialization. It was a fun game-type of exercise, and the students loved it! There was even one student who came to me at the end of the term and said, “I came to your class dreading this topic, but it was the best class I’ve ever had at the university!”

This is an example of keeping the fun in the fundamentals. The students learned the material through experiential learning moments that were engaging and interesting.

It’s okay to have a good time while maintaining accountability with the people in your group or on your team. If you don’t have fun, it’s easy to lose track of why you are there and why you do what you’re doing. Without fun, you can lose your excitement. When you lose your excitement for something, your passion for it is gone and it’s very hard to be successful at anything if you’re not passionate about it. That is why I believe it is so important to have a good time in whatever you’re doing–business, networking, or otherwise, by keeping the FUN in the fundamentals.

Do you have a story to share about a networking or business experience that is memorable because it was fun?




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Networking Education in Business Groupsstring(39) "Networking Education in Business Groups"

I think that all networking groups, as well as other types of professional business organizations, can benefit from regular networking education moments at their meetings.

I personally think one of the greatest volunteer positions in a BNI® chapter is the Education Coordinator role because you have an opportunity to pour into people about the things that you’ve learned. Especially for those who have served on the chapter’s Leadership Team and had some advanced training, or if you listen to the BNI Podcasts, and if you read books on business networking (I’ve written several), you can share helpful information to help all members of the group.

I designed the BNI Podcast episodes to be easily utilized as networking education moments for business professionals. They can be presented as a short summary, highlighting two–three tips or best practices. The transcripts, or portions of them, can be copied and pasted to a digital or paper document to hand out to all members and guests at the meeting. You can also play a short clip to emphasize the topic.

Immerse in a Culture of Learning

I once had an BNI Chapter Education Coordinator say to me, “I am in a chapter where the members just aren’t listening to the podcasts. And we, the leadership team, recognize that for a chapter to be successful, everybody’s got to be working off the same playbook, we’ve got to be together as a team.”

He told me his solution. The very first week in his role as the Education Coordinator he stood up and said to the group, “I basically have two choices as Education Coordinator, and I’d like your opinion on what you’d like me to do. One, you can let me know the topics that you’d like me to talk about, and each week I’ll do a short lecture on that topic. I’ll pull material from BNI podcasts, Ivan’s books, his blog, and I’ll talk about that content for you directly. Or two, we can have a dialogue. We can share ideas on what works and what doesn’t work. Which one of those two would you prefer?” He said he knew what the answer would be, and they all said, “Dialogue, please. We want to talk.”

He then told them, “Great, I was hoping you would say you wanted a dialogue. So in order for us to have an informed dialogue, we have to do the reading. We’ll take topics that you would like to talk about, I will assign a podcast, or a blog, or some material, for you to read or listen to on that topic for the next week. And if you have listened to the podcast, or read the material, you can talk. 

If you haven’t listened to the material or read it, you can’t join the discussion. And we’ll know that you listened to it or read it because you’re going to have to quote something from it. For example – Dr. Misner said this and that on the podcast, or his guest, so-and-so, made this point. But if you haven’t listened to it, you can’t talk.” And they all agreed to do it.

How did it work? Well, because the members knew that they couldn’t be part of the dialogue unless they read or listened to the material, they went from a chapter where almost no one listened to the podcast on a weekly basis, to having almost 100% participation!

This is a great way to get engagement while sharing information that will help the membership in the group and out in the business world. It is a fantastic way to help the chapter immerse in a culture of learning.

The truth is, if everyone listens to or reads the material, and then you spend a few minutes talking about it, it’s so much more real. It is much more engaging than simply sitting there listening to a lecture. And actively participating in a discussion helps people retain the information better, making it more likely that they will use it in their everyday business networking activities.