When you’re trying something that has a clear “success or failure” outcome, it can be hard to judge whether or not riskier tactics are worth taking. Whether the circumstance is primarily social, academic, or professional, you have to think about a number of factors in order to come to a reasonable conclusion on taking a risk to achieve the successful outcome. So when I think about the problem, I look directly at all the factors first.
The piece I consider first is: What happens when I fail? If there is a cost failure makes me pay, is that cost financial, one of wasted time, or something else? If I try to make a new friend and fail, that could cost a bit of “in-that-moment” self esteem, but that’s about it. If I apply for a job and fail, the cost is largely time I could have spent elsewhere. Neither scenario are likely to cost any actual money.
The second piece: what is the risk I’m considering taking? Does it improve my chances of success? Does it increase the cost of failure? If I’m romantically attracted to a friend, there is an inherent risk with voicing those feelings. Does it improve my chances of achieving what I want in that relationship? Undoubtedly. Not telling somebody how I feel isn’t going to magically lead anywhere I want it to go. It does increase the cost of failure, however. If it goes horribly wrong, at worst I could lose a friend. I risk embarrassing myself. Things like that. If I’m applying for a job, I could take a big risk at ensuring I am a memorable candidate. You want to stand out in a crowd in this sort of circumstance, after all. The risk here is: does making me stand out (and perhaps doing something unconventional) make me look better or worse?
The last piece is: What happens when I don’t take that risk? Can I still succeed? If I’m romantically interested in that friend, not taking the risk is a virtually guaranteed “failure”. In a scenario like this, taking the risk is the only viable option. In these cases, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is usually the best policy. If I’m applying for a job, though, I can still succeed and get the job without taking a risk by making myself stand out. This doesn’t mean that the risk isn’t worth taking, however. You have to judge how likely success is in both cases, and what the cost of failure is in both cases. If it’s something simple like a job interview, the cost of failure will be the same whether or not you take the risk. Therefore, all you have to think about is: Does taking this risk really increase my chances of getting this job?
As I’m applying for scholarships right now, this is the sort of thought process that’s been going through my mind. I have a very clear cost of failure: mostly the loss of time (and money if I factor in the success of potentially winning these scholarships). But since being brave and doing something weird is guaranteed to make me stand out, I’m going to take a huge risk.