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Don't stay safe

December 13, 2021

Over the past couple of years, the phrase Stay Safe has become a common ending to conversations, emails, zoom calls, etc. When I first started hearing it, it seemed like a kind and thoughtful addition. I think I even started saying it occasionally.

But the more I heard it and the more I thought about it, the more I began to question if it was the right thing to say. I staying safe our ultimate objective? Is that what we’re made for?

It reminded me of a quote I’ve seen several times throughout the years, “A ship that stays in the harbor is safe but that’s not why it was made.”

The ship will be safe if it stays docked, but what good is it? Yes, the ship that leaves may be damaged or even destroyed by a fierce storm. But it may also discover new places, deliver valuable cargo, or help someone reach their destination.

We’ve moved toward placing our safety above all else. Our fear of what might happen outweighs the potential reward. We want our ship to stay in the harbor so it’s not damaged or destroyed. But when we do that, we lose opportunities to learn and grow, to experience new things, to create new things, to better the world.

Imagine if the Wright brothers had decided it was too risky to attempt flight. Or imagine if Reid Hoffman hadn’t started LinkedIn because it was too risky. Imagine all of the what ifs.

When we succumb to staying safe, we start passing on taking risks. Small and big. The more opportunities we pass on, our aversion to risk continues to creep deeper and deeper into our thinking. Over time, as we stay safe we eventually seek to avoid all risks.

Have you seen those posts that say, “How did we survive childhood?” It’s typically a list of things people used to do that are deemed unsafe today. We rode our bikes without helmets. We never wore seatbelts. We rode in the back of pickups. If you did those things today, most people would come unglued. “How could you do such unsafe things?” they’d say.

If we focus so much energy on staying safe, we risk missing our calling. We miss the things we were made for. There’re great opportunities and rewards awaiting those who’re willing to take risks. Don’t stay safe.

. . .

Jeff Custer is a long-time leader at both private and Fortune 500 companies where he has developed and led both high performance individuals and teams. He is passionate about developing leaders and building high impact teams. Jeff resides in the United States.

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