Perspective Shift: Risk

I remember to this day how scary contemplating leaving my Engineering Manager role at LinkedIn was. My decision was not motivated by money or the dreaded fourth-year stock cliff. No, I was bored. I wanted to feel agency in my work again.

But, instead of excitement, I felt only the fear of not having a job. My imagination cycled through a dozen “what-if” scenarios; accident, disease, financial crash, and me in the middle, unemployed and unprotected.

Fast-forward three and a half years later, none of these scenarios came to be. Nowadays, in a twist of fate, I recruit candidates to join Truework. Like me, they are now facing the same fears I felt years ago.

It’s crucial as a hiring manager to help candidates walk through that primal fear and help them move forward.

I invite each candidate for a conversation as I deliver the offer. The goal is to shift their perspective on risk, a shift that freed me years ago.

At the root of the fear is what’s called a “deferred life plan.” Deep down, candidates feel the urge to join. But they debate whether or not now is the right moment to move forward. If you’re in this state, know that nothing is more dangerous to your long-term happiness than “deferred life plans.”

They come in many forms; it can be a big project in five years, a startup you work on for years after work, a “wantrepreneur” dream of building that big idea in a few years.

Important life changes are transformed by “deferred life plans” as threats to our well-being. Don’t be fooled; it’s just a justification to continue doing what you’re doing today.

Our mind is the powerhouse for creative thinking; unfortunately, creativity is also the source of cognitive distortions. In particular, two elements play a role when we consider changes and opportunities.

  • Overestimate catastrophic short-term risk, aka catastrophizing; Worst-case scenarios rarely happen, but we still see it as a threat to our comfort and life.
  • Minimize long-term chronic risks; long-term risks to your dreams don’t appear that threatening. Staying one more year at your current job when you want to be a founder? Surely it won’t be that bad.

A critical tool for success is the perspective shift that short-term risks are not a danger while long-term chronic risks are the biggest threat to reaching your goals. Most founders are not fools for leaving a cushy job and starting something from zero. Most know that they’ll never build a company by “staying one more year.”

The riskiest thing to do is not to take risks is not a paradox; it’s a necessary realization when changing perspective with a longer time horizon. In a year or twenty, a day will come when you’ll look back at your work and ask yourself, “Am I proud of the path I’ve carved for myself?”. That day, you don’t want to answer no.

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