The Discipline Of Taking Risks


Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

T. S. Eliot

When was the last time you took a risk?

What ultimately led to you taking the risk?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big risk taker.  In fact, my natural inclination away from risk seems to grow more and more as I age.

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and someone said “The biggest risk is not taking a risk.”

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Being risky doesn’t have to mean doing something stupid, but it does mean getting outside your comfort zone.  It could mean taking a calculated risk.  According to, a calculated risk is:

a chance of failure, the probability of which is estimated before some action is undertaken.

This type of risk requires discipline.  If we don’t learn to take calculated risks from time to time we will live a life of regret and wonderment.  We’ll be left to wonder what could have been.

Three years ago, I was imprisoned by a fear of failure and a fear of the unknown.  I missed out on many opportunities because I lacked the courage and faith to step into the unknown.  This is about the time my friend, Adam Flora, asked me to join him on a missions trip to Guatemala.  It would have been much easier to simply say “no” than to go through the anxiety of saying yes and worrying about the potential outcomes.

Fortunately, I decided to take the risk.  I calculated the chance of failure, and I made the leap of faith to go along on the adventure of a lifetime.  This trip changed my perspective on short-term missions, on Guatemala, and on the importance discipline of taking risks.

Several years ago, Jason Fountain guest posted on my blog, and he shared an interested story in his post.  Here’s an excerpt from that post:

John Maxwell relates a story shared by sociologist Anthony Campolo.  Campolo tells about a group of 50 people over the age of 90 years old who were asked one question: If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?

The question was open-ended and the people’s answers were varied. However, three ideas consistently emerged.

1. If I had it to do over again, I would reflect more.
2. If I had it to do over again, I would risk more.
3. If I had it to do over again, I would do more things that would live on after I am dead.

Number two on this list was all about risk.  As I watch my daughter preparing for college, I am reminded how quickly life moves forward.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to end up like the people in Tony Campolo’s survey.  When I get to the end of my life, I want to know for certain I lived my life to the fullest.  While it may stretch me, I want to practice the discipline of taking risks.

How about you?

How would your world be different if you made the decision to practice the discipline of taking risks?  How has risk-taking made a difference in your life?