Lessons about risk taking from my career journey

Today, I want to do something a little bit different than what I normally do. I want to bring a personal story (from my early days in the business world) because I think it can be interesting as well inspiring, especially if you’re feeling a bit demotivated or facing some professional challenges at the moment. Here’s the gist. My first job wasn’t exactly what I expected after graduation.  After completing my studies in Italy, I joined a company that had multiple project opportunities oversee.  So after a few months, I took one of them and I moved to West Africa to join a project on a little island in the middle of nowhere (Equatorial Guinea) where electricity was a luxury. It turned out to be the best decision of my life. To be fair, I thought a lot about this decision but I wanted to do something extraordinary. I wasn’t interested to go working in the city, in large companies with a comfortable job as many of my friends did. I wanted to have a distinctive career experience.  But I remember when I left home to go there. I really tried to hide my feelings. I didn’t want my parents to feel worried about my choice. And my parents were not used to seeing their children leave so early and move abroad. I also remember that was no cell phone at that time. I was really alone with some strangers thousands of miles away from home. It was like jumping into the unknown.  I’ve seen Africa only on TV (I was 27 at that time). So I thought about the cultural shock. And also this was my first job ever which was challenging per se. I was afraid to leave friends and family behind.  I could have chosen other career paths. I could have worked in my own town or done exactly what other my friends were doing. I had really hundreds of easier and less risky options.  But I decided that was the right thing for me. I decided to jump and take the chance.  Not easy, but I never regretted my choice, because I thought:
  • I can build a different career path compared to my mates (which eventually happened)
  • I can have a fast-track career (that happened even faster than I expected)
  • I can learn more languages (And I did)
  • I can have fun, because I wanted to enjoy work and my career (I had a lot!)
So yes, the decision wasn’t easy but I took – what I call – calculated risks. More than 20 years later (now), I believe most of my success is related to that choice:
  • I worked in seven different countries
  • I built a strong executive career
  • I learned 10x what my mates learned during the same timeframe
  • I helped (and keep helping) many professionals to become more successful, challenge their own status quo, and go beyond their comfort zone. 
In thinking about this experience, I came up with five big lessons:
  1. Take opportunities when they arise – Make it a new habit. Until now, when I see an opportunity with a well-calculated risk, I take it. I don’t wait until the opportunity is gone. If you wait to have all facts available to make a decision in the current world, you’ll end up regretting it.
  2. Follow your own path and not what others want for you – It’s easy for others to tell you what to do. But at the end of the day, you are responsible and committed to your own actions. So if you follow someone else’s advice, that’s ok but it’s still your responsibility to deal with the decision.
  3. Let other people play safe while you skyrocket your results – Don’t copy what other people do just because everyone does that. Do what is important to you. Don’t play safe. Identify good risks to take. Playing safe generates just average results. 
  4. Embrace diversity without bias and preconception – Don’t focus on other people’s biases. Form your own opinion on things, as it was for me when I went to Africa (I ended up loving the continent!). Bias is our worst limitation. Fight or step away when you come across them.
  5. Aim for a big stretch to maximize your outcomes – Always look for stretching yourself, but look for big stretches. When you play small, your comfort zone doesn’t get much bigger. But when play big, even if you don’t achieve all, you still learn to get more comfortable outside of your current circle.
I hope this story has helped you to get to know more about me, but more importantly, to inspire you to take your own chance when you see them. If you’re currently in front of a choice, you should take the chance because it can be insanely worth it.  Listen to the podcast related to this article: https://www.andreapetrone.com/lessons-about-risk-taking-from-my-career-journey-podcast/
Subscribe to the Newsletter


Insider strategies in your inbox every Thursday