There was a large water tower that once stood at the edge of the school yard in the town where I grew up, tall enough to be seen from almost anywhere in town, making it quite a temptation for mischief with the high school kids. In fact, more times than not the old water tower was covered with graffiti painted by those brave enough – or stupid enough – to shinny up one of its massive steel beam legs wagging a bucket of paint.
Legend has it that once upon a time – before my time – one young hooligan who had ventured up the tower to test his artistic talents slipped and fell off, a mishap that should have been fatal in most cases, except this lucky lad happened to land in just the right spot, in the middle of a large elm tree that had grown up next to the tower. Thus, so the story goes, he only suffered a few scrapes and bruises. Lots of people have climbed up that tower through the years, but of all the stories his is by far the most notorious. As for me, I never had the guts to try.
Ever wonder why it’s the risk-takers who get all the attention, even the crazy ones who take stupid risks like some of the hooligans I grew up around, instead of the play-it-safers like me? Could it be that we envy them, that we wish we could be more like them, be as fearless as they seem to be? It could be for good reason too; for it is the risk-takers – although not the foolish ones like I just described – who are the difference makers in the world. They are inventors, creators, adventurers, explorers, and entrepreneurs. And yes they are fearless in that the possibility of failure never seems to frighten them away. Play-it-safers, on the other hand, tend to deny themselves those opportunities to invent, create, explore or start something new.
I’ve never regretted not climbing that water tower, although I must admit I’ve always secretly admired the ones who did. But thank goodness I’ve not always been a play-it-safer either, for some of the best decisions I ever made in my life involved some risk taking – like getting married, having a family, becoming a bond trader, leaving that profession to become an executive coach. Yes, I survived a few close calls, but I can’t imagine what life would be like if I’d never taken a few risks. It’s just a fact of life, to live abundantly one must step out from time to time and take a few risks.