Episode 46 - Risks


Jen: Hello there, listeners. As you know, Pete and I like to practice good finding. And guess what we found? You! All of you, who have been such loyal listeners, and who have sent us questions, shared episodes, and brought other listeners into The Long and The Short Of It community. We are so grateful to you, and we hope that you'll continue to share your favorite episodes with the people you care about.'

Pete: Yes, and we also wanted to take a quick moment to remind you about our Box O' Goodies, which is a weekly email where Jen and I put in our favorite resources relevant to that week's episode. It might be podcasts, it might be blog posts, it might be books, it might be videos, it might be quotes, it might be TED Talks. You name it, it will potentially be in the Box O' Goodies, so you can sign up at our website: www.thelongandtheshortpodcast.com, and that will land in your inbox every Tuesday, along with a link to this week's episode.

Jen: Hey, Peter.

Pete: Hey, Jen.

Jen: It's hard for me to believe that we have not yet done an episode about this, but it's true. I want to talk about taking risks, and what that actually means.

Pete: Wow, yeah, you're right. We've never talked about this before. I don't even know if you and I have talked about this before, in a podcast or otherwise. Taking risks. This is The Long and The Short Of It.

Pete: Okay, risk-taker, tell me more.

Jen: Well, I think first, let's just come out of the gate with, I believe that taking risks is a good thing.

Pete: Yeah, I agree with that. I will "yes, and" that.

Jen: And, I would like for us to start by acknowledging that a risk, by definition, is only a risk if you don't know what the result will be from taking it.

Pete: Yeah. Risk is an action that you cannot see what the result might be.

Jen: There is a result you can hope for. But you don't know if it's going to happen or not.

Pete: Yes.

Jen: So, I feel like sometimes I hear people talk about taking risks, but they know exactly what the outcome's going to be. So in my world, that's not a risk. I just want to call that out.

Pete: That's the conditions of a risk, I like it.

Jen: Okay. And I think there are risks that are worth taking and risks that are not worth taking.

Pete: Agreed, agreed. Tell me more.

Jen: Okay. So, I once heard, I think it might have been Tim Ferriss, talk about this idea of assessing the cost of your risks. And this might have something to do with his fear setting exercise, now that I'm stringing these memories together- the idea that you can look at the risks that you intend to take, and essentially do a pre-mortem and ask yourself, what is the worst case scenario? Like, if this risk goes terribly, terribly bad, what would it take to bring me back to where I am right now? So, could it cost me a relationship? Could it cost me my health? Could it cost me my time? Could it cost me my money? And if so, then what would it take to bring me back to where I am right now? And that might help you figure out if it's worth the risk. So, there are risks worth taking, risks not worth taking. But the reason I wanted to bring up risks today is because I observed a client of mine do something pretty exciting a couple of weeks ago, and it led me to a new phrase I would like to coin in this moment, which is "risk stacking".

Pete: Ooh.

Jen: In other words, taking multiple risks all at the same time. So, let me give you the background story, and then I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Pete: Go go go.

Jen: Okay, so, this client of mine was going into a sort of high pressure situation, with a person she perceived to be higher status, and sharing some work with this higher status person. And, in this scenario...so Risk #1 was going in front of this person. Risk #2 was that she was, this is an actor, so she was sharing material she hadn't shared before in this kind of context. Risk #3 was that she had completely revised her resume, and put her Why Statement on it, front and center, and Risk #4 was that she was going to behave as though this higher status person was a colleague, and not higher status. Okay, so these four things...and one might think, why would you do that to yourself? Just pick one thing. Just pick one thing and see how that goes. But the outcome of this was that it turned out only one of these things was actually scary, in the moment. So, and it turned out to be about the resume. What I loved about this idea of "risk stacking", taking four risks at one time, was that the other three things turned out to be so unimportant to her in that moment that she could very easily take those kinds of risks again, without having to write a story in her head that this thing is so big and so scary, and how could I ever do it? Like, she's already done it. So, I love this strategy of taking multiple risks at once to figure out which one is actually risky.

Pete: Yes, yes. Yes, yes, yes. I love this. Okay, so this is...it's funny that you, like, started with the Tim Ferriss Fear Setting exercise, 'cause I actually think that that's often the result of that exercise as well, is you realize that the fears you have, or the risks you think that are within these decisions or looming changes that you're working on, are actually either not that scary, or not actually risks at all. Because the Tim Ferriss example is, you then, the second stage is you write how would you get back to where you are now. And often what you realize is that, if everything goes terribly, and the ultimate fear is realized that you write down, it's actually not that hard to get back to where you are. It's like, there's a couple of steps you can take to get back to the position you're in right now. That, to me, is the same intention behind "risk stacking", which is, can I almost trick myself into realizing that there's not that much fear in these risks? That, maybe, there's one of the four that is risky, or scary, but that it's unlikely to be all four. And what I wonder, what I imagine, what I assert, is that if she just picked one, regardless of which one it was, she would still be afraid, like she'd be afraid of that. Like, there's something in this idea of stacking them all so high on top of each other that it looks ridiculous, and it's going to tumble in the wind, and it's like, maybe it does tumble in the wind, and it's just one remaining at the bottom.

Jen: Mhm. And you know what is really interesting...three of the four risks didn't matter, and the fourth risk opened up a conversation that got to live past that moment in time. So, it generated an ongoing dialogue. So ultimately, all four risks paid off. And had she taken them one at a time, it would have taken her four times as long, to find that out.

Pete: Do you know if, in coming up with these risks in her head, do you know if the fourth one that she thought of, like sequentially, was the fourth one the same one that ultimately was that risk that created a conversation?

Jen: I have no idea. I'm going to have to find out and get back to you on that.

Pete: I would love to know the answer to that, because I think, like, there's a method of thought, or a school of thought, or an approach that you can take when thinking about fears, and goals, and dreams, and whatever. Or the hard part, you know, which is something I talk about a lot, which is, like, asking yourself the same question multiple times, essentially. So like, what's the hard part? And then I write down my answer, and then it's like, really though, like, what is the hard part? And then you, like, go a little bit deeper. And there's a thing called the Five Why's, which is also very common, very well known, which is, you ask yourself why something's important, or why something scary. You write down the answer. Then, you ask why. Again, you do that five times. And the idea is, the fifth thing that you get to is probably the real reason. But you've created a bunch of stories that tell you that it's these other five as well. So I wonder, I just wonder if that is also at play here.

Jen: Yeah, I love it. I'm going to start encouraging people to do some more risk stacking, 'cause I think it's quite a brilliant approach. Okay. So then the other thing I wanted to talk to you about is, well, there are a couple things. Okay. So the one that is pressing on my brain right now is, I'm in the middle of deciding if I'm going to take a risk. So I thought I'd put it out here on the podcast, like what has gone through my mind.

Pete: Yes, take the risk!

Jen: So, okay. So, how appropriate. So, you know, Peter, I recorded two hours of an interview with our mutual friend, Lili Torre, for her podcast, The Dreaded Question.

Pete: Which is a great podcast.

Jen: The first hour was really about living life in a way that has integrity. That didn't feel risky. But the second hour was all about the things that trouble me about the theater industry. And, she was very gracious, and sent it to me, to sort of get my thumbs up before it gets released. And I listened back to it, and I was like, wow...I am speaking without a filter. Like, without a filter. And, some of the things I'm saying, I have said within the safe four walls of my studio, to an audience that is already on my side and wants to hear what I have to say. But saying it without any walls and not knowing who's going to hear it, now that feels very risky. It feels very risky, 'cause I think some of the things we talk about are pretty provocative and triggering. Anyway, my first impulse was, let me send it to Peter, because I know that you would give me honest feedback. Then, what I thought to myself was, that's hiding Jen, because Peter's not in your industry, so you need to send it to Drew. Drew Wutke, who is my right hand man at the studio, and who has historically given me the most critical, honest, raw, unfiltered feedback of anyone I've ever had a friendship with.

Pete: Yeah, you told that great story, in the Sunk Costs episode (I think, from memory), where Drew really hit you between the eyes, in a generous way. I was going to say, Drew also did the theme music for The Long and The Short Of It, which I think we've mentioned before, but thank you, Drew.

Jen: Yeah, he's amazing. He's a solid human being. So, I sent it to him, and he is going to give me some thoughts, but he texted me back right away and he said, nothing in there was offensive to my ears. So, I have decided to give Lili the thumbs up, and to put it out there, and I'm just going to sit back and watch what happens. It's possible nothing will happen. It's possible that some people are going to be angry with me. And it's also possible that some people will get riled up like I am, and want to help in making a change in our industry. I don't know, which makes it a risk.

Pete: Yes. I have two questions off the back of this. One is, where's the fear in that risk? What is the fear in that risk? And two is, is there a way you can risk stack it, to go back to what we just spoke about for the first half of the podcast?

Jen: Oh snap. Okay. So the fear...this goes back to an episode we never released called The Fear Onion.

Pete: One of my favorites to never make it off the cutting room floor.

Jen: Ah, so listeners, essentially the idea is that, just when you think you have gotten to the bottom of your fear, you pull back that layer and there's something else hiding underneath it- just like an onion, and it's stinky. And it makes you cry. So, the fear onion here, Pete, is...the first story that I just told myself in my head was that it has something to do with my fear of being recorded, which is not true. There is something about knowing, like, your words are going to be captured forever for posterity. That is scary, but I don't think that's what it is. I think it's more that there's a ceiling in...there's a literal ceiling in the Studio, but there's also, there's a ceiling in the Studio of how high up the food chain my ideas can go. And with a podcast, there's no ceiling. I don't know where the ceiling is. So, on the one hand, I would love for people who are in decision-making positions in the theater industry to hear what I have to say about how I feel their decision making is going. On the other hand, I am afraid that they're going to hear how I feel about how their decision making is going, because I'm pretty critical.

Pete: Yeah, yeah. But, I think it's interesting 'cause in that episode, from memory, one of the assertions we made in The Fear Onion is that the root of the onion, the core of the onion, is a fear of other people's opinions. And that feels, that feels like it's true in this case, as well. And that manifests itself in a number of different ways, but it feels like, at the core of it is, yeah, a fear of what other people are going to think, or say, as a result of this podcast.

Jen: Yeah, so, I'm taking the risk. The long and the short of it is, I'm taking the risk. I'm having her put it out there, and we'll see how it goes.

Pete: Okay, perfect. How are you going to risk stack it, then? That was my second question. How are you going to risk stack it?

Jen: Well, I think I should help her share it.

Pete: Ooh, yes, yes.

Jen: I haven't shared the first episode, which was released on Tuesday, because she says in it, "Tune in next week for the second part". And I'm like, oh god, if I share the first part, people are going to know there's a second part,

Pete: So we're going to risk stack it. We're going to risk stack it. Jen Waldman is going to share.

Jen: And, I think what I need to commit to, even beyond that, is to intentionally share it with people that are outside of my comfortable circle. Like, maybe instead of sharing it on Facebook, I should share it on LinkedIn.

Pete: Yeah. And what if you, what if you shared it to certain people in an email directly, and said, "Hey, I thought you might want to be one of the first to hear this", and even add some context around the things that you said, so that it can't be misconstrued.

Jen: Okay. After I barf, I'll do that. Sounds great.

Pete: We're risk stacking, we're risk stacking. This is a good thing.

Jen: Okay. So, I think what we've committed to is telling Lili that she's got the thumbs up to release it, sharing it on social media (particularly business-related social media like LinkedIn, as opposed to my friends and family on Facebook), and three: direct emailing some people who I feel a pang of fear to send it to and say, "I thought you might be interested in this". Whew, okay. Got it.

Pete: And how, how do you feel, based on what we've talked about with fear stacking and based on this idea of just creating a fear stack? I just have this lovely visual of, like, all these fears toppled on top of each other, and it's kind of a little bit shaky. Does it feel like any of them have been eased yet, at all? Or is it too early to tell?

Jen: My, my stack of risks is...I feel...you know Jenga?

Pete: Yeah.

Jen: Okay, so, I feel like the piece I could pull out, and it wouldn't fall down is the social media piece.

Pete: Yeah, that's not the scary part. And yet, today you've created a story that that was a scary part. Wow, risk stacking. So, I like this idea because I think, like, in my head, I'm thinking with risk stacking you almost make things...like it almost becomes so ridiculous and overwhelming and like, in your head scary, or in your head risky, that you almost unattach from the outcome, because there's just so many ridiculous fear inducing, risk producing thoughts in your head that you're like, you can't attach yourself to any outcome 'cause you have no idea. And we talk about, we've talked about before, that really good decision making is actually about unattaching yourself from the outcome. And so, what I love about this is like, what you've essentially done through risk stacking is trained yourself to unattach from that outcome. And that feels super productive.

Jen: I love it, I'm excited now. Okay, so there's one other idea I want to throw in here, as it relates to risk. I wrote a blog post about this once upon a time. There's this very popular meme which shows a circle, and inside the circle it says "Your Comfort Zone". And then outside the circle, it says something like "Where the Magic Happens", or something like that. And while I love that, and find it's charming, I don't think it's accurate. So, one of the things that I think is important to acknowledge is there's your Comfort Zone, and then outside your Comfort Zone is what I like to call the Discomfort Zone, which is, I agree, where the magic and the growth happens. And then beyond your Discomfort Zone is the Panic Zone. Your Panic Zone is the place where you do not have the skill set to survive. Like you can swim in the Discomfort Zone, you're just going to be tired and in pain. But in the Panic Zone, you're not going to be able to swim because you haven't learned how to swim in those kinds of waters yet. So when I think about how this risk that I'm going to take with Lili is the Discomfort Zone, I can say to myself, I actually have the tools and the skills to survive here. I know how to handle my mindset, I know who my allies are, I know who my champions are. I've thought through my pre-mortem: what is the worst thing that can happen and how can I rebuild? So, even though it's scary and it's painful, I can survive there. But if I didn't have any of that, I would be in the Panic Zone, and I'd never take a risk again. So, I do think it's important to acknowledge your skill set.

Pete: Absolutely. I love this. So the Panic Zone being not a place that you're gonna make smart, rational decisions, most likely, because you're not equipped to. And, I would throw a potential renaming of the Discomfort Zone, which could be the Impostor Zone.

Jen: Ooh, that is Shepherdian if I ever heard it.

Pete: Right. Because we've talked about before that, impostor syndrome is, it can be uncomfortable. But I think impostor syndrome is a good thing, because it's a sign we're doing something new, we're doing something we've not done before. We're challenging ourselves, stretching in a way we haven't stretched before, not in the state of panic, but in the state of, like, growth. And that the discomfort, and the feelings of doubt, the feelings of insecurity, the feelings of risk, the fears, they are the growing pains of being in the Discomfort Zone. And, while I'm thinking about this, like, metaphor of the zones out loud, it's almost like by dancing in the Discomfort Zone, you increase the size of the Comfort Zone.

Jen: Yes!

Pete: Just made that up on the spot.

Jen: Oh my gosh. I love, I love that. Because I'm thinking, okay, there's a difference between being an impostor, and not knowing your ass from your elbow. Pardon my French. So, like, you could give me a plane and a parachute right now and say, "Jump out of this plane", and I'm worse than an impostor. I'm dead. Because I literally have no skills, no tools. I don't know how to do it. But, you could have trained me, provided me the skills, given me the practice jumps, given me a coach, attached me to another person, and I could feel like an impostor, but I'm going to survive that, because I have the tools there. And I love that idea. Okay, officially renamed from the Discomfort Zone to the Impostor Zone, where we all shall learn to dance.

Pete: Okay, so tying in my favorite topic, impostor, back to risk. What have we learned through the course of the last twenty minutes? We learned that "risk stacking" is like playing Jenga, and a really effective way to unattach ourselves from an outcome, and realize that the four risks, or the five risks in our head, and the fears and the doubts that come with those, are likely only one and that we can dance with them.

Jen: In the Imposter Zone.

Pete: And, we learned that Jen is going to take a risk. Bravely and boldly, take a risk, and we all get to cheer her on from the sidelines.

Jen: So, as I pick myself up from the floor, I will say to you all that, that is The Long and The Short Of It.