Brett Martin, CEO, Sonar
RISK? WHAT RISK? "If you do a startup and fail, but you take a good stab at it, you'll gather such resources and make such connections, that ultimately, you've learned."
IT'S RISKIER TO BE . . . "An artist. You might put in the most effort but get no financial reward if no one buys what you've made."
Emily Noelle Lambert, painter and
RISK? WHAT RISK? "I developed other skills along the way, like teaching, so there's always something I can fall back on."
IT'S RISKIER TO BE . . . "A politician. You depend on money from the state to do your job well. In this economy, that's risky."
Sam Adams, Mayor of Portland, Oregon
RISK? WHAT RISK? "I'm surrounded by professionals in risk assessment."
IT'S RISKIER TO BE . . . "An emergency aid worker. They're often first to arrive at dangerous and unstable situations."
EMERGENCY AID WORKER
Michelle Jackson, AmeriCares
RISK? WHAT RISK? "In Japan, our medical director sent us radiation readings and told us exactly what to do in an emergency."
IT'S RISKIER TO BE . . . "A soldier. They're running around streets full of people with guns. It's so frightening."
Nancy Schiliro, former Marine
RISK? YOU BET. "Every day I woke up in Iraq was a big risk. I was shot by RPGs and hit by bombs. I never knew where I was going and if I was going to come back alive—that was the scariest part of my job."
IT'S RISKIER TO BE . . . An "entrepreneur. With the economy today, anyone trying to make it on their own is taking a risk. It's easy to fill out an application to get a job,; it's not as easy to start a business."
Blake Mycoskie, CEO and founder, Toms Shoes
Risk? What risk? "Our ideas seemed crazy years ago, but we've proven that business and philanthropy aren't mutually exclusive."
It's also risky to be a . . . "Working in finance. One day things can look great, and the next day the market crashes."
Sisse Ferguson, Northwestern Mutual
Risk? What risk? "Market uncertainty has showed why long-term financial planning is so important. In tough times, I have my best years."
IT'S RISKIER TO BE . . . "A construction worker. Dangling in a harness off the side of a building—the risk seems all too great."
Bryan Brady, director of training, Ironworkers Locals 40
and 361 in New York City
Risk? You bet. "We're working with 2,000-pound steel beams on a regular basis. Any little mishap is a broken ankle."
It's also risky to be a . . . "A commercial fisherman. If you're out in the ocean and the weather turns, you have a long way to go."
Keith Colburn, crabbing captain on Deadliest Catch
Risk? You bet. "I've traveled into waters with 8- and 10-foot waves that can literally sink a ship just so I could be the only person fishing somewhere. And you never know where that wave with your name on it is lurking."
It's riskier to be.. Someone else, of course. And on it goes.
A version of this article appears in the November 2011 issue of Fast Company.