Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Taking Risks – Lessons from a Traveler

There’s a story about a traveler who was passing through a small rural town.  As he entered the town he saw a billboard.  On the white portion someone had drawn a target and right through the middle of the target was a shot through the bullseye.  He went down the road a bit and there was a wide magnolia tree with a target on it, and right through the middle of the target, he saw another arrow in the bullseye.  All over town…bullseyes. He thought to himself, “Somewhere in this town is one heck of a marksman and I’m going to find him.” 

By asking questions he finally did find him but it turns out the marksman was the village idiot.  The traveler said, “Sir you have a great gift.   No matter what they say about you…you have developed a unique skill.  Tell me, how did you get to be such a proficient marksman with the bow?”  The man answered, “Nothing to it.  First you shoot and then you draw the target!”

 That certainly takes out all the risk.  We are a nation that is sometimes scared to take the risk. Even though this country was founded upon the principle of taking risks.  We agree our health care, education system, and social security all needs to be reformed.  Yet, each election cycle we hear all the promises and each congress ends their term with little having been done.  On a more personal note, sometimes we’re all afraid of going out on the limb…reaching outside our own comfort zones.  Many of us equate taking risks to failures.  Failure will indeed confront all of us at some time or the other, particularly if we take risks.  I’m not talking about foolish or silly risks with dire consequences, but rather calculated risk – risks that are worth taking.

I remember the first time I ran for president of my local Jaycee Chapter in Rock Hill.  I lost.  Imagine if I had never ran again.  I would not have become state or national president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and perhaps would not be in my vocation today.

1992 Campaign for National Jaycee President

1992 Campaign for National Jaycee President



Did you know Thomas Edison was thrown out of school in the early grades when teachers assumed he couldn’t do the work?  When Bob Dylan performed at a high school talent show, he was booed off the stage by his classmates.  Henry Ford forgot to put a reverse in the first car he manufactured.  A newspaper owner told Walt Disney to pursue another line of work, “You don’t have any creative, original ideas.”  All of these are instances where people took a risk, failed, and tried again.


Are we willing to take a risk for something we believe in?  Many would rather draw the target after they shoot and play it safe.  Personally, I’ll take a swing at it every time.  I say reach for the stars and even if you just clear the tree tops- you’ve left the ground and touched the sky!  It’s worth the risk.


April 6, 2009 - Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , ,

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