Take Smarter Risks
Since making the choice to eat better, exercise regularly and overall live a healthier, more active life, I've felt better, moved better and learned to enjoy foods I never thought I'd sample, much less enjoy. Nowadays, my obsessions are peanut butter, Greek yogurt, leafy vegetables, pork shoulders and eggs. Even so, I still allow myself fried fish on occasion, French fries are a once-every-few-months treat and should I have a hankering for carrot cake, I don't deny myself. I just don't enjoy food enough to worry about bingeing.
Occasionally, however, I hear "You mean you're going to eat that? That's not healthy," from friends and family members. After devouring whatever food is in question, I always deliver the same terse words: "It's not what you do occasionally that's kills you. It's what you do every day that destroys your results."
At that point, they realize the difference in eating ice cream every night as opposed to occasionally. I call it my 90/10 rule: If you eat right 90% of the time, going off the map the other 10% won't have an adverse impact.
It's the same for business.
When I talk to friends who've hit a rough patch or listen to business owners who're in dire straits, it quickly occurs to me that it's not one fatal mistake that sabotaged their life or business – it's a succession of errors that got them to this point. It's a fact that's easy to miss, too. The business owner who makes a risky investment that doesn't pay off and results in him losing his company thinks it was that one bad gamble that did him in. In reality, it was the decision to take a gamble at a time when his business was already on shaky ground. That's what ruined his chances of success.
It could be a guide, for example, who always gets a new boat every year, in good times and bad. But this year, with client numbers down, the smartest thing would be to eschew any added debt and save whatever cash he has on hand for a rainy day. A new boat in this climate isn't a must. And I can assure you that clients care more about catching fish than they do about riding in the latest Ranger or Bass Cat or Lund.
I want to be clear: I'm not saying your decision-making needs to be impeccable or that you need to avoid taking risks. Quite the contrary. I'm saying that taking uncontrolled risks should be reserved for those periods when your company can better absorb them. When times are good, by all means, take some chances, especially if they involve risks that could put you ahead of the competition. The key is that making risky bets (a) should be reserved for certain periods and (b) shouldn't comprise a sizeable percentage of your decisions.
In applying the 90/10 rule to dieting, I like to tell folks to divide the number of meals they eat in a week by seven, which is the number of days in a week. If, say, you eat three meals a day, that's 21 meals a weeks. That means you can eat whatever they want for two meals a week. Tough but doable, right? Here's the catch: To best ensure you don't end up "wearing" said meals, the food should be consumed after some form or exercise and there are to be no second helpings.
This way you're indulging "risk" (a) when the body is best equipped to handle it, and (b) by doing so only a small percentage of the time.
Try doing the same with your business.
(Image courtesy of Jcoterhals)