Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I'm Not a Venture Capitalist...Or Am I?

Venture capitalist (VC) def: a person or entity that provides financial capital to early-stage, high-potential, high risk, growth startup companies.

Now that’s not exactly the same definition you would find if you used Wikipedia to look up “mountain guide” (that’s found here). And of course going into my event last week where I was speaking to 250 venture capitalists from around the country, I wasn’t sure I had a lot in common with these tech savvy, investment types.

However, after a little research on the industry, it became clear we were not so dissimilar… “high potential, high risk”… sure sounds like the mindset necessary to approach a big mountain peak. The risk is high, but the reward is great.

I think climbing is such a great venue to discover this concept of high reward/high risk. Whether you are at the base of a short rock route or a massive 8,000 meter Himalayan giant, the risk of failure is sometimes overwhelming… providing a great magnet for keeping your butt squarely on the couch.

Our whole way of life today is dedicated to the removal of risk. Cradle to grave we are supported, insulated, and isolated from the risks of life.

Risk is a verb.

It’s also a mindset that has been diluted over the years. I am reminded of a quote I heard a few years ago (excuse me if I butcher it):

“This nation was built by men who took risks… pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, business men who were not afraid of failure, scientists who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of progress, dreamers who were not afraid of action.”

What comes with great risk is the opportunity to fall directly and sometimes dramatically on your face. It’s guaranteed that if you put it all out there enough times, you will experience failure. It hurts…almost always emotionally, sometimes financially or in my case, physically. The repercussions for failing on a mountain can come down to simply not standing on the summit or, in some cases, an ending that has more mortal results.

However, those of us that are willing to hang it all out also know that sweet taste of the summit. Once you’ve been there, it becomes the mystical memory of satisfaction…that has to be tasted and experienced again…and again. Determination and drive are the ideal defenses for the fear of failure and resistance to risk.

Risk is also important in venues well beyond the realm of business and the mountains. Our personal lives require risk as well. The requirements and commitments necessary to raising a well balanced and loving family are significant. The risk of sacrificing life as you know it in order to give so much of your bandwidth to show your family how much you love and adore them. It requires going out on a limb. Isn't that where the fruit is?

My friend Philip Kirakofe was one of the originators of the Failure Club. In Failure Club, members learn to defy the fears associated with ‘failure’ by pursuing seemingly impossible goals that they set for themselves. From the outset, failure is not only a highly probable outcome, it is the desired outcome. Only through embracing the reality of failure can its’ societal stigmas be stripped away and replaced with an inspirational alternative.

Take risks. Hang it all out there. Give it a shot. Try to do so in every facet of your life…personally, professionally, emotionally.

Life has no romance without risk.