If you want to advance your career, taking risks is a necessary evil. If you want to rise above the competition, risks push you out of your comfort zone.

As boxing great Muhammad Ali once said, "He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life."

Every great business success story involves initial risk. The origin stories for corporate icons like Google, Whole Foods, Microsoft, and FedEx all began with a multimillion-dollar idea and no guarantee it would work.

Risk taking is not only about driving the bottom line. It is also crucial for leadership success and can sharpen your business skills by building the confidence and wisdom you need to grow.

When I launched my first business venture, I quit a safe position even though I had young children at home. I assumed customers would just flock to my new business, but I soon realized I had to be an effective salesperson even though I had no experience. Yet, with each new client or prospect, I learned what did and didn't work and gradually improved my sales expertise. Taking this risk taught me a valuable skill I otherwise would have never learned.

Of course, not every risk succeeds, and you always have to prepare for the possible downfall. This is why fear of failure is the greatest obstacle for taking risks.  

How can you overcome this? Here are three TED Talks that explore the valuable insight that comes from taking measured risks and how to find the strength to try something bold.

1. Celebrate failure.

One failure can give you cold feet for taking another risk. The best way to overcome this is to accept failure as part of the process. Entrepreneur and inventor Astro Teller, the head of a company called X, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet, works in what he calls "the Moonshot Factory," where failure is often the most common outcome. He leads a team of inventors and entrepreneurs to tackle pie-in-the-sky projects like wind turbines that sail through the air. In this talk, called "The Unexpected Benefit of Celebrating Failure," he shares how he helps people feel more comfortable when taking on the most daring ideas.

2. Embrace rejection.

Another way to overcome the fear of risks is to change how you react to rejection. This way you don't always see risks as possible failure but potential success. Entrepreneur Jia Jiang, owner of Rejection Therapy, a website that provides products to help overcome rejection, took this concept head on when he purposely sought out rejection for 100 days. His approach included many sure-fire attempts, such as asking strangers if he could borrow $100 and requesting a "burger refill" at restaurants. In his TED Talk, "What I Learned From 100 Days of Rejection," he explains how the experiment taught him that rejection is not as painful as one may believe, and that simply asking for what you want can open up endless possibilities.

3. Focus on little risks.

Not all risks have to be go-for-broke gambles. Stanford University neuroscientist Tina Seelig approaches risk taking in a different way. She compares it with luck, which is actually a regular occurrence, not an isolated and dramatic event. Her approach is that if you seize small moments of luck and enjoy its minor success, you can gain the confidence to take on bigger and bolder risks. In her talk, "The Little Risks You Can Take to Increase Your Luck," Dr. Seelig shares three unexpected ways to increase your luck.

No company or person can ever say with 100 percent certainty that an idea will succeed, but without taking the risk, they will never know. By learning how to overcome the fear of failure that comes with risk taking, you can seize opportunities when they arise and perhaps reach your greatest height.

Published on: Feb 14, 2019