What possesses a man to leap from the top of a bridge, throwing his parachute into the wind while he plummetsbasejump earthward? Why would a woman don scuba gear, dive hundreds of feet below the ocean’s surface and explore a dangerous shipwreck? Why do some of us look for risk, while others avoid it?  In the business world, why do some see themselves as risk-takers, business owners and creative achievers while others are content to keep to the status quo?

Are we really so different from each other, or are there more subtle reasons to explain the differences between us? Researchers believe there are some genetic influences, especially when a person is an extreme risk-taker. But for the average person, environment plays a larger role in his or her ability to tolerate risk. Which environment is most crucial? The environment in your family of origin. In short, when you were growing up, if you received rewards for being a risk taker you are probably now inclined to accept more risk. If not, you probably tend to play it safe.

For example, if you received an enjoyable gift from your parents after speaking in public, you are more likely to view public speaking as an acceptable risk. If your father was a decorated police officer who worked in a risky environment, you would be more likely to see that line of work as an acceptable career option despite the risks.

Why would an understanding of your environment be important? If you are considering becoming a business owner, for instance, you would do well to examine your roots. Did you come from a family of business owners? If so, you are likely to view the risks involved in ownership as acceptable. However, if you are the first in your family to venture into business ownership, it would be a great idea to weigh your risk tolerance carefully.

If you are “going against the family grain” in your pursuit of business ownership, do so with full awareness and understanding. Recognize that you will not receive much encouragement from those closest to you. In fact, what you are planning probably scares them to death. Because they love you, they will attempt to bring you back into the “safe family fold” where you cannot get hurt.

Examine family patterns with your eyes wide open.  As you do, you’ll learn more about yourself and your ability to handle the inherent risks in business ownership.

By Charles J. Chamberlain, ELP Editor