Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Inherit Risks in Decisions

The biggest hindrance that I seem to face - and have seen in many other people as well - is the fear of the unknown. The fear of not doing something because of the risk of just not knowing what it could mean if you fail. Or even if you succeed.

People are unique, and as they are unique so are their goals and dreams. For me, the idea of settling down in suburbia and knowing I must do something responsible to pay the mortgage for the next 30 years is like giving away my freedom. The freedom to take a risk and do something I would want to do. The freedom to live in another city, state or even country. But to others, a place to call home is a dream.

We all are different. Some people's goal is to get married and raise a family. Others are to move as far away from home and get out and do something with their lives and on their own accord. Others to start a career and work as hard as possible to get as far up the ladder as possible.

We are all different. We all have different ideas, goals and visions. But how many people follow them and why? We all want to be successful, rich and influential. And as important as these things are, are the things we give up - such as time, emotion, stress, life - worth it in the end. The risks associated with even a simple "I will work hard and climb the ladder" are many. Not getting promoted. Having the company you work for downsize. Getting sick and having to pay for treatment out of pocket. If we spend our whole lives just working for a goal that may or not be reached with the only hope at the end being richer than the other people you went to school with (or whatever), for me that is just a waste of a life.

Now, for those of you making $100k + right now, you may feel different. And good for you. But for the rest of us, and especially for myself right now, are we considering our own selves in the decisions we make?

In my personal experience, I have taken on some very risky decisions: start a business, go to Asia, be a business major during the collapse of society as we know it. But all of these decisions panned out in such a way that I would not trade them for anything. And not all of them were successful. But the journey brought me so many great memories, friends and experiences that I could never of had if I would have been logical in deciding what to do.

For instance, who goes to Taiwan? Would you advise a 23 year old recent college grad with absolutely no interest or knowledge of Asian culture to just choose one afternoon after a lunch with a friend talking about their relative who teaches there to just decide "OK, that is for me"? Talk about short sightedness. But in truth, the experience of doing something completely unknown - with all its inherit risks - was the absolute best decision I could have done at that time in my life. I am convinced that NOTHING else I could have chosen would have beaten that experience.

Back in - oh I would say 2008ish - me and a buddy of mine came up with an educational software idea. We took that idea and molded it over the next 2 years into something not just theoretical, but actual. A creation of a great idea tied together with a business model that made sense (at the time at least). Low overhead costs + maximum possible exposure to potential clients + a visually stunning and easy to use interface = Biomagine Software. During the life of the company (which still exists), we were accepted into the USC Business Incubator, had a semester where we were used in the science labs at USC, and taught me and my business partner invaluable experience, knowledge, advice and warning that can only be taught by the experience of actually having done it. Although not everything went - or goes - to plan, even a failed venture and all its time and money is one of the best experiences I had during my college and immediate post college years.

Now I am faced with the biggest challenge of all: What to do with my life. It's a great challenge that seems to grow larger with each passing day. I have a friend who I talked to about this awhile ago and he told me that no matter what I choose, it will be the right decision. Stick with what I am doing now, I gain experience. Change career paths, I learn new skills and can combine things that I have learned. Go back to teaching overseas, you will create networks and see parts of the world that people usually only see on television. No matter what, you can't go wrong.

But that is where the fear comes in. That fear of failure. Of the unknown.

I thought I was immune to that. Hell, who does what I did? I am in a very fortunate position to where I financially can do realistically what I want to do - no student debt, car debt, mortgage debt, ex-wife debt. The only debt I have is the time I have already spent trying to figure this whole thing out.

The best decisions are not decided for you. The best decisions are the ones you make.

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