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Imagine this: You have a decision to make, and the outcome isn’t 100% certain. Do you take the risk or play it safe?

Last week I and my friends Jolene Harrelson and Tamarah Saif, SPHR were faced with this decision. 

For 6 months we’d looked forward to a bucket-list hike from Crested Butte to Aspen.

Last Monday as we were getting the final details in order, we checked the weather forecast for the end of the week and our Friday hike.

It didn’t look good. In fact, it looked really bad.

Here in Colorado, we are in monsoon season, with storms every afternoon that makes day hikes a challenge to plan.

Why? Because you do NOT want to be caught above tree line in a lightning storm.

The forecast for Thursday, the day before our hike, was for storms all day. Friday, the day of our hike, didn’t look much better.

Canceling would have been a good bit of lost investment, as we were past cancellation windows for lodging and shuttles. But was the risk worth it?

Risk was unavoidable. We couldn’t be certain of what would happen. Even with all of the best data, weather is unpredictable.

We considered the weather data. We negotiated with the shuttle to get on the trail earlier. We calculated where we’d be based on our average pace at high elevation. We planned even more carefully what we’d bring in our packs. We understood that once we got on the trail, turning back wouldn’t be an option.

So we prepared the best we could, and then decided it was a “Go!”

We did the hike. It was epic. Nearly 11 miles of wildflowers and wildlife and incredible views and only a little bit of rain. 

We took a calculated, informed risk. We gathered information, prepared for mitigation, and made a game-time call. If the risk had been too great to mitigate, we would have canceled the hike. But at no point did we consider bailing because we couldn’t be certain of perfect weather.

As leaders, we’re frequently faced with decisions that require us to take risks without 100% certainty. 

Often we don’t take the risk because we want to avoid failure at all costs. We search for data that gives absolute certainty and no risk and then get stuck in analysis paralysis. 

Rarely in life and work is there absolute certainty and no risk.

Effective leaders understand this. They gather information, plan for mitigation, and make a game-time call. They take calculated, informed risks. If things go sideways, they learn and adapt, but don’t let it stop them from taking risks in the future.

Often the results are epic.

I used to consider myself risk-averse. There was a time when I wouldn’t have done the bucket-list hike unless I knew it was going to be perfect weather.

Thankfully, my outlook on risk has shifted, and I was accompanied by two other incredible women who also embrace informed risk in beautiful and life-changing ways. 

And it was epic.

How about you? When have you taken an informed risk with epic results?


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