About This Episode
As entrepreneurs, we are not strangers to taking risks. In order to grow our businesses and ourselves, we need to be comfortable with taking risks. Frank O’Connell, our guest in this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, a Success magazine podcast, is very big on that.
His accomplishments are his testimony. He served as the President of Reebok brands, President of HBO Videos, CEO of Indian Motorcycle, and Chairman and CEO of Gibson Greetings—a truly stellar background that speaks about his successes (and failures) when it comes to taking paths less walked by others.
He wrote the book Jump First, Think Fast, and if you’ve known me for a while, these are the types of books that really get me excited and interested. As the title of his book says, Frank is all about taking the leap and being quick and strategic in building brands, coming up with new product ideas, and developing breakthrough marketing strategies.
“You can’t really grow in life unless you take risks,” Frank shares. “From a business standpoint… it’s very hard to grow a business unless you really take risks and put yourself in uncomfortable positions.”
In order for us to make the most of our lives, we need to get out of our comfort zones. After all, as Frank says, “Life is not a spectator’s sport.”
We all know that taking risks is inevitable, and it will be hard to get anywhere if we don’t, but it is easier said than done. We want to know that the returns of taking these risks will be worth more than what we might lose if we fail. However, there is no way to always get that 100% assurance that everything will go the way we planned.
How can we become more comfortable with facing risks and the possibility of failure? And how can we move quickly in the face of those risks and failures? Frank shares with us the wisdom gained through experience.
It takes intentionality and practice
If we want to be more comfortable with taking risks, we have to challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zones. “Put yourself in uncomfortable situations that are really gonna challenge you to develop other aspects, skills, and things in your life,” Frank says.
There are so many ways we can do that while still having fun. Travel is a big one—not just our usual vacation on the beach, but going to other countries and immersing ourselves in the culture and lives of other people. The more we expose ourselves to different cultures and people with very different and diverse thinking from our own, the more we expand ourselves and the lens through which we look at life.
Stretching ourselves beyond what we know is critical for growth and is a great factor in enriching our lives. It takes a lot of intentionality and willingness to see the world from a different vantage point, and admit that we don’t know everything there is to know.
Self-awareness is also a big factor. Identifying and understanding who you are, what makes you unique, and what values, strengths, and weaknesses you own are crucial. But it takes courage to take ownership of that and a thirst for learning to go beyond ourselves and explore other paths, less taken by others, in order to live fuller, happier, and more meaningful lives.
Creating a path for ourselves, our goals, and our missions can be scarier than following the tried and tested paths taken by most. But that is how we take control of our destination, and we end up learning more about ourselves and the world in the process.
Jump first, then think fast
The current world we live in is rapidly evolving. Now, more than ever, the ability to be adaptable is critical for business success. Take the risk, then think fast in making your strategic moves. The more you do this and reflect on it, the more you can sharpen your intuition, helping you become more agile as you grow and navigate this fast-changing business landscape.
That is how Frank managed to break through the market when he was in charge of Reebok and Gibson Greetings. It takes being bold and taking big risks, whether it is the willingness to release a controversial ad, shred a surplus of products, or strike new partnerships. Especially when you don’t know if it’s going to work out or not.
Of course, taking risks isn’t the same as being reckless. You also need to do your research when developing your products and strategies. The biggest piece to this is understanding your consumers—the way they think, what they feel, and what their current needs are. It means making bold strategic moves and being ready to change direction if you need to. You should also review and change your strategy whenever you need to.
Slipping into your consumers’ shoes
It might be basic knowledge for any business owner, but understanding our customers is key to being successful. This includes, according to Frank, knowing your product or service and understanding it to a deeper level, especially how it compares to others.
“In my case, it’s understanding how to appeal to the customer,” Frank says. “I live close to the consumer and do research, but I do a lot of these moves intuitively.”
Understanding the different aspects of the market is crucial. Who is your audience? What is weighing on their minds? What do they care about? How do they think and behave? If they use this product, how will it make them feel? Is it something that they need? Why do they need it? You need to know these things and more to gain a full understanding of your market.
Another important skill to build is the ability to see and predict trends. Based on your current growth and data, what is next? You need to be able to somehow forecast the future based on this data.
The research and planning process involves a lot of creativity: Generating ideas in terms of potential directions that you can go in strategically and what information you can get to help you evaluate those directions.
Know your product, know your market, know your business and industry and its nature.
Get as much data as you need in order to spark your creativity and ingenuity. That involves consulting with others and getting input from your stakeholders: That involves your consumers and employees.
Have fun, Be fun
Taking risks and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone can be scary, but Frank encourages us to make the most of it. A treat is a challenge or an adventure. Have fun and be fun. “Business is not life-threatening,” Frank shares. “Get perspective, it is not life-threatening.”
Sometimes, what we need are high doses of humor to level the playing field.
Listen to the whole podcast to learn more about how to grow your business and yourself from Frank O’Connell. You can also check out his book, Jump First, Think Fast, on Amazon and other bookstores nationwide. He talks about his experiences, both successes and failures, that are tied to growth and taking risks.
DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.