All our lives we've been taught to avoid risk. Look both ways when crossing the street. Don't touch the hot stove. Don't talk to strangers. Yet ironically, most of us live in an irresponsibly dangerous fashion—without even knowing it.
Over the last few years, the world has changed dramatically. Global financial crisis, technological breakthroughs, skyrocketing population, geopolitical turmoil. Shockingly, most people still play by the old rules. They run yesterday's game plan and wonder why results continue to plummet. "We've always done it that way" no longer can suffice as comfort food. Rather, it is a signpost on the route to disaster.
In school, we were taught to follow the rules, guess what the teacher knows, there's only one correct answer, and whatever you do—don't make mistakes. We learn to keep our heads down, do what we're told, and never question authority. But doing that in today's hyper-competitive, constantly changing world is a surefire path to mediocrity.
It turns out that playing it "safe" has become recklessly dangerous.
Those who were lulled into a false sense of security were blindsided when corporate downsizings swept through and when supposedly loyal customers defected to upstart competitors. It turns out that playing "not to lose" simply seals a fate of crushing defeat.
Blandness has given way to boldness. Me-too boring is being conquered by originality. What the world now demands and is willing to pay handsomely for is remarkable and creative thinking. This applies to businesses, politicians, communities, education, and of course ... individuals.
The real risk today is that of standing still. Hiding in the shadows and waiting for direction is akin to riding a motorcycle without a helmet on a crowded freeway. You now have to take a counterintuitive approach in order to buckle the seatbelt of safety. You now need to stand for something, take the unconventional alternative, and let your imagination soar.
If you insist on keeping your head down in the operating manual, you'll be hugely disappointed when you finally look up. You'll see that the world has passed you by; that life's rewards have been bestowed upon the brave souls who had the creativity to dream, and the courage to go for it.
If you want to avoid life's biggest risk—a path of mediocrity and regret—you must bring your guard down and your creativity up. It may be outside your comfort zone, but it's actually one of the safest things you can do. It's time to get in the fast lane of original thinking, innovation, and possibility.
For more ideas and insights to unleash your creativity, visit www.JoshLinkner.com.