Take a Risk, Leave a Risk

When I started as a legislative assistant for a state senator in Minnesota, every day that I walked up the huge, stone steps and entered the Capitol, I looked around me in awe: the grand marble staircase, the painted dome ceiling, the pillars and statues. All beautiful representations of democracy. This is where I get to work, I thought. My coworker told me I’d get over it, but in three years, I never did.

Dave Wilson Photography

I had a similar awe for the senators around me–at first. I was nervous, I stuttered too often, my fingers felt like Jell-o. In meetings, I was quiet even when I wanted to speak. If the majority leader came in and chatted with me, my back started to sweat.

I seemed to hold the same reverence for the senators as I did the institution itself. Except, I learned, the senators weren’t works of art. They laughed until they cried, they cried until they laughed, they were intelligent and not so much. One popped into our office every day to grab the newspaper before heading to the john (we were right next door). Another was openly insecure about her authority. They worked hard, they lazed, they fought, and they made momentous strides in governance.

In short, they were human. (Not counting Michele Bachmann.)

My favorite lesson from that wonderful whirlwind of a job is this: No one is better than me. And I am not better than anyone. We’re all the same, in many ways. (Insert other obvious exceptions here.)

Of course, I was told similar things since I was little. But hearing a lesson is different from living one, isn’t it? That experience gave me the confidence to take risks–to direct communications for a statewide campaign having never even volunteered on a campaign before, to travel alone, attend a conference where I knew no one, write a novel, start a blog.

So — take one of my risks, if you’re partial. But leave one for me: tell me what risks you’ve taken.

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

 — Pablo Picasso


8 thoughts on “Take a Risk, Leave a Risk

  1. I took the risk of starting my own practice. Work long hours, never get paid on time, never know during these poor economic times if I will always have work, can’t turn down work because you don’t know when or if there will be work tomorrow but……I love what I do and you will never hear me complain that I can’t wait to retire because I hate my job. The risk I took 14 years ago was a risk worth taking. Great blog Jessica and so true…I am always looking for new and different challenges.

  2. Jess- as always, LOVE this post. I tend to follow my gut and it always leads me down the right path. I took a risk on a boy. In 2001 I graduated from U of Iowa with a teaching degree. I was only certified to teach in Iowa. With no money and no job, I moved to Atlanta where my boyfriend at the time lived and moved in with some girls I barely knew. I found a teaching job, took a test to be certified to teach in Georgia, learned how to live on my own in a big city and 2 years later married the man of my dreams. We are now happily settled in Chicago with 2 beautiful boys and jobs we love. My parents were a little nervous about their small town Iowa daughter moving to the south for a boy they barely knew, but it was a risk I’m so happy I took.

  3. Normally I wouldn’t even take this risk; but since I’m here what the —-! BTW, thanks for popping in on my blog!

    And that – writing a blog – is actually my risk, or at least my latest one. For so long I felt I had interesting, if not always important ideas or a few good stories to share. Yet, despite my outward confidence (something that took YEARS to develop), deep down I did not think I was or would be taken seriously. In that regard, blogging – for me – was a big risk.

    I’ve been surprised at how well it has been received by those closest to me and by some of the opportunities that have resulted, including contributions to a local on-line news service and a shot on a local access cable political talk show.

    It has turned out to be more fun and validating than I had imagined. The secret? Don’t ever take yourself too seriously.

    Great blog idea, btw. I might steal it! ;^/

    Have a great weekend!

    • Thank you! Steal away — just give me all the credit. And the byline.

      Glad to hear your risk has paid off. Sounds like you found the right balance — take yourself seriously enough to have goals but not too seriously that your hinder yourself.

  4. I absolutely agree with this. I’m not sure where I learned this lesson. I’m pretty good at taking advice. 😉 Right now, the hard part is trying to help my kids understand this: We’re all just human. That shouldn’t be so scary, should it? Great post.

    • Thanks! And good for you — I’m just now learning to be better at listening to advice. It’s not that I thought I knew better, it’s just that I often thought, “Well, of course I’ll do that. Sounds reasonable. Of course I’ll ask for help when I need it, etc.” And then when the time or situation came, I realized why it’s not always so easy, and the advice comes into play.

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