Playing It Safe

I was well into my teens before I began considering what I might do one day as a profession. Every idea was in play except teacher because I’d seen what my father had gone through. His work days were long and irregular which limited the amount of time he could spend with us. The pay didn’t seem match the amount of education it required. And I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy spending the bulk of my day correcting the bratty kids.

As I entered college I felt like I could find success in anything I went after. I didn’t have to accept the same old boring career path. While friends from high school attended law, dental and medical school, I studied German. I enjoyed the smaller classes that came with choosing a language studies program compared to business or law. Part of the excitement was not knowing what I’d do after graduation. And by not knowing, it felt like I could do anything.

And, frankly, I liked being different. Sitting in an auditorium with 700 other clones taking Marketing 101 made me feel like I was back at the Mission Training Center expected to fit in, tow the line, and do what I was told. I enjoyed a few of the classes but despised the attitude of those students studying business.

I was caught between playing it safe and following my heart. lifejacket

As much as I learned in four years of college, the most valuable skills I learned came at night in my apartment when I’d take computers apart, study the pieces, and put them back together. Luckily, I had my tech savvy uncle to lean on during those times I ended up with a handful of spare parts and a computer that refused to boot.

As I look back on my career, I see how often I’ve played it safe with my choices. One of the few times I took a chance and followed my heart was the time I left a stable corporate job to join a small Internet Service Provider in Seattle. The amount of knowledge I gained there easily surpassed all other jobs combined, and I’m convinced it’s because I forced myself to step outside my comfort zone.

Why do I continue to play it safe when I know it results in learning less?

It was easier to take chances when I was single and certainly before we had children. Back then, if I took a chance, and it didn’t work out, I’d find something else. But now I can’t afford to go without medical benefits for my family. With the economic downturn and high unemployment numbers, playing it safe sounds like the reasonable choice.

And yet, this is probably the best time to follow my heart because I have so much on the line. I’d have to make it work. I couldn’t allow myself to fail because failure would affect many people.

I’m not betting with house money anymore.

But a small part of me says, “Go for it”.