I'm currently studying in Accounting, aiming towards a very valuable qualification in South African business and the world at large. However today I want to delve into one of the drawbacks of the degree, and I believe - many others. If you are studying or have studied something outside of commerce, there are still very clear parallels that can be drawn and I'm confident that you can get some value out of this too.As an accountant and auditor, we are taught to think in a very specific way during our training. Rightly, or wrongly, the entire profession's work is based around the risks that businesses and people in the industry face and how to mitigate those as best as we can. For example, the idea of publicly released financial statements is to mitigate the risk that an investor may invest in the wrong company, among other aims. Auditing aims to mitigate the risks in the physical preparation of those financial statements so that we can rely on them. Finance often aims to mitigate the risks on all sorts of contracts, positions and capital structures - inherent in businesses.
So in essence, risk is the buzzword for all accountants.
As we are taught to think this way, an inevitable characteristic of extreme prudence is slowly nurtured. In the face of all these risks, often exaggerated and drawn out for academic purposes, it becomes natural for us to look at risk as something that should be avoided at all costs - because that is what is best for the company - and that may be true, in some cases.
But when it comes to our own personal lives, and I would argue a large portion of business challenges, that extreme prudence and risk-aversion can be debilitating. Taking risks is the only way we move forward, it's the only way we can peek at the wonders that actually are out there for us if we only take the step.
It is easy to see the risk, the downside, the reasons not to do something.
What is not easy - is to see the opportunity, to see the upside, the reasons to do something.
I've written many times about getting out our your comfort zone here on this blog, but I still want to nail the point down because I believe it is so important. When you are old and grey (I'm told...), looking back on your prime years you are going to regret what you didn't do, as opposed to what you did. So we need to consciously make a decision and turn our risk-averse brain off for a bit and take that step.
Risk is exciting, it is dangerous - but thoroughly rewarding. We often assume that the most successful people are the ones who fail the least. However, in my mind - the most successful people are the ones who have failed forward the most. Failure breeds success because the ones who are failing and getting up to push on - are the ones taking the risks. It is very easy to sit back in this noisy world of ours and coast along - doing what feels comfortable, and never failing at it! Risk-free.
Risk-free is never a recipe for actual real-world impact though.
Risk is necessary and desirable, something that we should be striving for.
We need to live that way.
I need to live that way.