Steering Clear of “Safe”

2009 July 8
by Grace Boyle

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well perserved body. But rather to skid in sideways, Chardonnay in one hand, strawberries in the other, body thoughly used up, totally worn out , and screaming “Woo Hoo! What a Ride!” -Chuck Myers

Um, hell yes.

I’ve been reading a lot about breaking free of inhibitions, taking risk and wanting something more. I’m surrounded by idealists and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Contemplating my friends’ trip abroad and upcoming explorations, I have concluded that the most powerful, exciting times in my lives was when I had no agenda, no plan, took a risk and felt scared.

Buying a ticket to Ireland for St. Patty’s day, then spending the night in the airport just to make it back in time for Midterms in Italy. Studying abroad. Saying “yes,” instead of “no, I’m not sure.” Jumping off a cliff in the Swiss Alps. Working and living in Costa Rica alone at age 19. Choosing a small, college in Vermont where none of my friends knew of or had been to. Moving to Boulder, alone. Forgiving a friend. Letting love into my life, when I least expected it to sneak up on me.

Through each chance, I’ve tasted failure, defeat and loss. The greater the risk, the greater potential to lose your footing. Now, as I can look back I still know it was all worth it. I cannot imagine settling. Many would argue that risk is tied to reward. You just will never know, unless you try.

One of my best friends, Camie writes, “Finding little gems in the places you least expect is a secret in life. Everyday I am learning to be more present with reality and more clarified with intention. Sometimes its scary to change circumstances so quickly. And it is now too. But I’m just not entertaining that fear today…”

Live with intention and like my dad would say to me growing up, “Take a walk on the wiiiild side!”

What risk have you taken recently? Do you thrive on risk or balk at the thought of it?

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  • benjamintwilcox

    Grace, this is a great post. I am also inspired by the things that people are able to achieve once they let go of their inhibitions and take risks. Stories of previous risks you have taken has encouraged me to push the boundaries of what I think is possible and put myself out there. You have a unique experience from having taken those risks and I am sure you wouldn't do anything differently, even if you could.

    Keep up the great posting!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ben Thanks! I'm all about pushing boundaries and I would hope it can help to encourage others to go for the same. Thanks for sharing :)

  • ryanstephens

    Admittedly, I'm a pretty calculated person. I was always the kid that watched everyone else do it first just to make sure the outcome was one I felt comfortable with. Within though, there's definitely the risk-taker anxious to take a leap or two. I know what I want, I know what I'm capable of, but often times I suspect I fear what my parents (who paid for a large part of my education – that affords me certain opportunities), friends, etc. will think if the guy who's always walked the straight and narrow does something a little off the beaten path.

    It's something I struggle with everyday. That's reality. But like you said, I can definitely trace back some of my favorite moments, times when I felt the most proud, to instances where I just said “What the hell?” and things had a way of working themselves out. I also love your friends' quote b/c being present in the moment is definitely something I'm slowly working on getting better at.

    All in all this post was a great reminder to not get comfortable, to keep pushing, even when the odds might be stacked against us. Good stuff, as usual, Grace!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ryan I had this post set to come out, then I watched the video on your blog about backbone and holding up your end of the responsibilities. Ironic, right? :)

    I really believe in being true to who you are. If calculated has worked well for you, then keep being you, but I urge those “What the hell,” moments to still shine through. Just as you mention at last, getting too comfortable is a strong reminder to keep pushing! Thanks for the kudos, too Ryan!

  • Tony Ruiz

    I must say the greatest risk I took is moving away from home for college. The experience has been great so far and the possibilities are endless. It's all about living in the moment. Great post Grace!

  • Rebecca

    Loved this post and totally agree. You have to put yourself out there. I feel like I'm in such a good place right now that it's time to push further and take some more risks. Thanks for the timely post!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Tony It's good to know that you have experienced risk like that and enjoyed it! Why stop now? 😉

    @Rebecca Great minds think alike, right? We get happily comfortable and there's nothing wrong with that, but just like you said, sometimes digging a little deeper can push your happiness further and expand your horizons!

  • tarable

    Hear, hear Grace! Part of the reason I love getting up on stage to do standup is that I'm never really sure what's going to happen. Sometimes people laugh, sometimes they don't. But I always learn something about myself and that's the important part anyway. (Although it feels really good when people laugh!)

    Since I haven't had as much time to do standup, I'm giving improv another try. There is a local group convening and somehow I got an invite. Since improv is all about taking risks, listening to one another and saying “yes”, I'm sure that good things will come from me dusting off my old skills. So much of life is lived impromptu…how can I not benefit from this opportunity?

  • sameve

    Grace, I really like this post. You are a great risk-taker, and I totally admire that about you. “Safe” is easy and comfortable, but usually not as much fun. However, I have to say that I've always been more like Ryan, watching others do something first in case it didn't work out. I'm trying to take more risks, it's on my list of things I want to work on. Speaking of, I posted today about the thing that's first on my list, and now that I think of it, I guess I'm taking a risk there too. Anyway, awesome post!

  • cooper

    I agree, there is not much to be gained from always being safe. Life is about living. For me.
    I think for me the hardest thing is to reconcile the fact that to some people living is being safe and not exploring the world and it's opportunities on a whim, whereas to others not to be able to do so would be stifling.

  • Carlos Miceli

    Grace, my friend, this has been such a discussed topic in our “community” lately, I love the fact that you gave your vision in such a well written manner :)

    Like we say with Matt, life is a videogame, there are no mistakes, it's a matter of choices. It's just one big path, and if one realizes that, then risks are just part of life, you can accept them and enjoy them.

    Taking risks should be a must for all of us, since we're forced to change constantly, might as well force us ourselves.

  • Matthew

    I have concluded that the most powerful, exciting times in my lives was when I had no agenda, no plan, took a risk and felt scared.

    Can you say, the anthem of my life right now? Quitting my job, moving to Chicago with nothing lined up, living with the future in-laws, taking a step back to start the next chapter of my life, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, not knowing what the next couple hours will bring. It's pretty terrifying, but I know that taking risks, in the end, is the only way you'll get ahead. Living without regrets (which is one of the hardest things we'll ever have to do) is the only way to live. To you, Jamie, and everyone else out there who has taken risks and lived to tell the tale, cheers to all of you. One of these days we're all going to rule the world, we'll look back on our fears and laugh because we conquered it all, and even from the beginning, we knew we'd come out on top.

  • jackieadkins3

    Hi Grace, I think a lot of us struggle with steering clear of safe because for the most part, we live a life that's planned out for us through high school and sometimes even college. We get used to the predictable nature of school and everything we're used to, and for the most part, all of our sources of authority (parents, teachers, etc.) seem to frown upon risk and breaking away from the pack.

    I know I personally fall victim to this and have gotten used to living a very predictable life, but the truth is that the less predictable of a life you live and the more risks you take, the more you're able to grow as a person from the new challenges and experiences you expose yourself to.

    Thanks for encouraging all of us and hopefully we can live this out!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Tarable Such a good story because standup is a perfect example of risk! Life is filled with impromptu opportunities, where saying “no” just isn't as exciting or worthy. Thanks for sharing girlfriend.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Sam Thanks for the kind words, I'm simply doing what I know best to fulfill my life. But like I mentioned to Ryan, watching others first isn't bad and to you, you have been living. I like what you have posted about finding confidence for yourself, which to you can be a risk that is important in taking. You have the intention, which is also very important.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Cooper Life is about living, without a doubt. But like you say, “living” for each person means something different. @Tarable brought up a good point about life and the impromptu opportunities it is filled with. Some jump on and grab those opportunities, others let them pass it by but it doesn't always mean they're not “living.” Thanks for sharing!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Carlos I know, I wrote this post a while back and linked to Jamie and Matt with the intention of inspiration. Little do I know, the community has taken a rise and writing about this pertinent topic. I say, keep it coming! I love hearing everyone's perspective. We all live so differently. You're right, that the oscillating nature of life is change, so we might as well go along with it and take risk to spice it up a bit, eh? :)

  • Grace Boyle

    @Matt I know and what you're doing is so commendable! Terrifying is part of risk, but if you were never scared, you wouldn't have a mixed palette of emotions to draw from in life. Cheers to YOU, Matt!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Jackie Great point. I really noticed that high school and college were really planned out. Although there were risks in between and I ventured off far to college, I still had a plan that I was in college for X amount of years, studying X and I could base it off each semester, break, etc. Now post-college, I'm realizing there is even more potential for risk than I thought possible.

    You're very right that you're able to grow more as a person when you put yourself in unexpected situations and branch out. Well-said! Thanks for sharing and stopping by :)

  • AndreaLearned

    This so resonates with me, Grace. I've lived a similarly risk-taking life (though never realized that's what it was until a few years ago) and have found it completely energizing and worth the scariness. I wonder if I was born in the wrong generation (very last year of Boomer)?

  • Grace Boyle

    @Andrea I'm glad this resonates with you. I think risk excites all generations somewhere deep inside, but a lot of people are afraid to embrace it.

    The word 'energizing' is very powerful and a great way to describe risk. The energy outweighs the fear. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing. From one risk taker to another, cheers!

  • opheliaswebb

    Well, I suppose it's not much of a surprise that I am not a risk taker at all. For me life is thought out, calculated…I was the 5th grader sitting beside a 2nd grade Ryan checking out what everyone else on the playground was doing before jumping in. I'm one of those people that even when I'm sitting quietly just chewing a pencil eraser, I'm taking in the whole situation and figuring out where to fit in. It's part of my thought, it's part of who I am…I'm a thinker and a planner and a plodder.

    That being said, I have the quote you started this post with on a frame on my desk. I think it's important to realize from either side of the fence the importance of at least looking at the grass on the other side. For those that are leapers and risk takers it's sometimes important to consider at least some of the steps you are going to take. For the plodders and safe folks, sometimes you gotta jump and see where the wind takes you.

  • Grace Boyle

    @OpheliasWebb I'm glad that you have this quote on your desk. No matter how you react and live your life, it's inspiring! I like that you mention risk taking is important to access as well (like any action). Some people really fly by the seat of their pants and end up worse off than they were before and those that are safe, can go for the jump sometimes too. There's always a balance in life.

    I will say one thing about risk–when you want to test out the 'temperature' of the water, you can test it out, ask all your friends what they think, read about it, research, etc. but you yourself will never really know the tradeoff or what will happen unless you really JUMP in yourself. That's the part about risk, considering the leaps you're taking doesn't always help you in the long run…Great thoughts, I love it!

  • Akhila

    Grace, I'm so sorry I haven't been commenting lately! I've been so busy and it's sad that my online life is falling behind..

    But back to the topic, I loved this post! Because, I completely agree. While I haven't taken the MOST risks in my life, I certainly have tried to challenge myself and do things that help me grow and make me more confident. Usually this involves some amount of risk – these types of moments help you grow the most and help you evolve. I've taken the decision to study abroad for a whole year, and then randomly move to Switzerland for a summer internship – a place where I know no one and don't know the language. But, the experience has been phenomenal. After my year+ abroad I feel so much more ready to tackle the world, and I have become so much more confident in my own abilities.

    I'm looking forward to more risks in the future, more change, more challenge, because like you I know it makes me a better and stronger person!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Akhila Don't you worry, you have been transitioning and taking your own risks! Isn't it exciting to see when we begin to take risks that the next risky leaps don't seem as daunting. It definitely seems to be the case with you! I can't wait to hear more of your stories and good luck :)

  • Grace Boyle

    @Akhila Don't you worry, you have been transitioning and taking your own risks! Isn't it exciting to see when we begin to take risks that the next risky leaps don't seem as daunting. It definitely seems to be the case with you! I can't wait to hear more of your stories and good luck :)

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