Table of Contents
Avoiding all risk is a path to failure. If we never take risks, we stay in a comfort zone and never grow, change, or learn. But approaching uncertainty and risk in the right way ensures that we maximize the benefits.
Adventure athlete Will Gadd makes a living being in high-risk situations and speaks around the world about how to live risk the right way. In this episode, he shares his philosophies and process for operating in uncertainty.
Actions You Can Take Right Now
- Recognize that not taking risks might be riskier than taking them. Without embracing risk, individuals and people will never grow, learn, and change. This ultimately leads to failure.
- Stay humble! Having high humility helps us better recognize, avoid, and mitigate potential threats.
Leaders that can create a culture of psychological safety are better positioned to manage risk. When everyone feels safe to speak out, there is a web of sensing which can identify threats early.
View or listen to this and other past episodes on the Unleashed Podcast Library
Episode Highlights and Excerpts
- Will’s adventurous personality drew him to challenge and exploration at an early age. After a successful career in publishing, he made the leap into trying to become a professional adventure athlete when such a thing didn’t even exist yet. He quit his ‘day job’ to become a professional ice climber.
- He doesn’t seek notoriety but is driven to do cool things that have never been done before. This often puts him in high-risk situations.
- Risk is part of life and business and has given him a unique perspective. He suggests that not taking risk is less safe than taking them. If you avoid risk, you never grow, change, or learn. Being happy and comfortable leads to failure.
- Being optimistic and positive is poor advice. Instead, we should look at every situation and ask ourselves, “what could go wrong?”. Do the research and surround yourself with the knowledge and people who know the environment.
- We must lean into the probabilities and consequences of potential threats, think through them, and take steps to avoid or mitigate those threats. Will calls this “dancing with risk,” and the more we do it the better we get at it.
- Humility is an important trait in uncertainty. We must be able to vocalize when we don’t know something, or we are in over our heads. The opposite is over confidence which can get us in far worse trouble.
- When facing high-risk situations, Will combines internal and external understanding. Internal is knowing our own skills, knowledge, and capabilities, and external is knowing the environment.
- Nothing ever goes as planned. You must always scan the environment for changes and impending problems or threats.
- Teams need a culture of psychological safety that encourages everyone to speak out, no matter their job or level, if something doesn’t seem right. This expands the sensing web for potential threats.
- The way leaders react to people speaking up sets the precedent for the entire team. If leaders make their team feel encouraged to raise concerns, issues and worries about any situations, that gets noticed by others and makes it safe. Then more sensing for potential threats will occur.
- When people voice fear, leaders can’t ignore it! They need to acknowledge and validate the fear, listen deeply, and then help people take small steps to move out of the fear situation.
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Will grew up in a family that hiked, climbed, and went into the mountains whenever they could. Some of his earliest memories are of long backpacking trips, wind-blown summits, and surviving winter ski trips. As one of the world’s most prominent ice-climbers with accomplishments on routes across the planet, he has witnessed climate change up close in high up places less visited by man.
Will speaks on the topics he lives daily: Excellence, managing risk, resiliency, seizing opportunity, high performance outcomes, and risk mitigation in low-knowledge environments. He has a lifetime of inspirational, carefully organized stories and images, and builds all his presentations for the specific challenges and goals of the groups he works with. He’s spoken to more than 200 organizations around the globe, and loves learning and presenting to new and repeat clients.
You can learn more at Will’s website.