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The farmer who wouldn’t take risks

I was recently reminded of an old Indian folklore story my mom told me many years ago.  It was about a farmer who was asked whether he planted wheat for the season. 

He replied in the negative.  “I was afraid we wouldn’t get enough rain,” he said. 

He was then asked whether he planted corn.  “No, I was afraid that insects would eat my crop,” he responded. 

“Well, what did you plant then?” And the farmer replied, “Nothing, I played it safe.”

In order to be successful, you need to take risks.  Not blind dramatic gambles, but calculated thoughtful responsible risks. 

Responsible risk-taking is relative.  Deep sea diving is risky, no matter whether it is done by a trained scuba diver or a complete novice.  But for the trained diver, it is responsible risk-taking; for the novice, probably the diametric opposite.  Calculated and thoughtful risk-taking is based on knowledge, training, study, competence and acquired confidence – all factors that give you the courage to act, even while facing fear.  Like the farmer, the person who attempts nothing makes no mistakes.  But not doing something is a bigger mistake than trying and failing. 

So seek to develop your knowledge, intensify your training, deepen your study of the subject, build your competence and raise your confidence.  And then act, but make sure that the risks you are taking are calculated, thoughtful, and responsible.

Do you find yourself sometimes feeling like the farmer and so have difficulty taking risks?  Or are you at the other end of the risk-taking spectrum?  I’d love to hear about your experiences, both positive and negative, when you’ve tried to push the envelope or buck the status quo.  Please share your perspectives directly on the blog at

In The Globe and Mail: Manifesting ‘workplace courage,’ an important but underrated skill

Turning Managers into Leaders

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