By Mayke Nagtegaal, former speed skater with the Royal Dutch Skaters Association, current COO of MessageBird and an eternal risk-taker. A version of this article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.
Skating the razor-thin edge between hazard and reward is something I’ve learned over the course of my career. Not just from my job as the COO of a startup, or from my previous job as an attorney specializing in international taxation statute, but from my former life as a professional velocity skater, flying across the ice at 30 mph.
To me, speed skating is a balance of both force and accuracy, power and tact. Winning and losing isn’t defined in seconds–it’s defined in hundredths of seconds. You could be in the middle of the fastest lap of your life when the tiniest blunder sends you crashing. Yet, you learn to stimulate moves anyway, veering with the curves of the track to bypass your adversaries , no matter the risk. You don’t play it safe, worry about being disqualified, or dread the fall. Instead, you foresee it. You get good at falling. Or, more to the point, you get good at picking yourself up again when you are take a tumble.
It’s the same mindset I’ve applied as I’ve skated along the twistings and turns in my career–the idea that risk and reward are two sides of the same blade. When I hung up my skates to practise taxation law, there was a sense of stability and groundedness in my job. And I loved what I did. But, when I had the opportunity to join a high-growth startup with a squad I liked and trusted, I leapt at it.
To me, it was a no-brainer. The breakneck velocity of invention and high-stakes, high-pressure environment of the tech world mirrored what I was already used to out on the ice. I understood how to hustle and didn’t anxiety shaking myself, and our squad, out of the familiar–whether we were scaling from a handful of employees to hundreds, or actively deciding whether to take on our first round for financing after six years of steady, profitable bootstrapping.
Men and Risk
Yet, if headlines are to be believed, risk-taking for career advancement–especially for women in tech–is easier said than done. One study presents men tend to take more dangers under stress, while female risk-taking lessens under stress. Another report determined women, on average, are more risk-averse than men in fiscal decision-making, which in turn, is associated with differences in career choices.
In a review of MBA students, the study received about 36 percent of females choice a risky career in finance( like investment banking or trading ), compared to 57 percentage of their male counterparts. And, of course, there’s the infamous confidence gap revealed by an internal audit at HP, which showed men will apply for a undertaking or promotion when they meet merely 60 percent of academic qualifications, while women won’t apply unless they meet all 100 percent.
Being an athlete helps hone your focus and channel your drive and ambition to become a team leader in business. It teaches you to stop defining limits for yourself, and to reconfigure how you confront the challenges that come over the course of a career. A study by Ernst and Young surveyed 821 high-level executives, and observed 90 percentage of the women among them played athletics. Among women in C-suite stances, it rose to 96 percent.
Five Factors to Consider Before Your Next Career Change 1. Risk-Taking Doesn’t Mean Recklessness
Cultivating an athletic mindset starts by recognizing risk-taking isn’t synonymous with recklessness. On the ice and in business, complacency is comfortable, but it also comes with a cost. If you don’t find new muscles to flex, you’ll never break out from the pack.
Risk-taking is necessary for creation and innovation. It is what induces you pivot when a answer doesn’t address a require the route you want it to. Without pushing our comfort zone, we can’t arrive at that next groundbreaking idea. Risk is what enables you to innovate yourself–to get better and grow. The payoff of hazard is twofold: you get to find real solutions to real problems–and, you get to explore parts of yourself you didn’t know existed.
2. Go For Growth
Whenever I’ve been presented with a new career possibility, the first question I ask is not, “Which job is more secure? ” No job is secure. Instead, ask yourself, “What will I learn? How much will I grow? ” When in doubt, always opt the growth possibility, because that experience is one you’ll carry with you throughout the course of your career; it will outlast whether a startup fizzles or takes off.
3. Due Diligence vs. Self-Doubt
There are days in life when playing it safe is good advice–like wearing a seatbelt, for example, or appearing both styles before intersecting the street. And yes, it’s good to look before you leap, especially when you’re making a career move or deciding whether to join a startup. But, whether you decide to take that leaping or not, make sure you’re attain that decision for the right reasons. There’s a difference between due diligence and self-doubt.
4. Avoid the Algorithm Approach
Right now, especially in tech, the world operates on data. We rely on inputs and run the numbers in the majority business decisions we build. But, when it comes to taking risks, especially in your career, there is no way algorithm. Apply logic, but also understand the make-or-break moments in life, and your career, usually fall outside industry standards pro-and-con list. Usually, the ultimate decision comes down to your “spidey senses”–your brain, your heart and your intestine. Trust them. No matter which decision you build, every opportunity–even one that doesn’t necessarily turned off as planned–is an opportunity to learn and grow, if he wishes to make it one.
5. Always Be Ready to Run!
In skating, as in business, the line-up at the starting line isn’t a prediction of what will happen at the finish. When you’re teetering on the edge of an important decision, there’s always an “on your mark, get set” moment. The trick is to trust your decision-making abilities to decide which risks are worth take, so that you’re ready to “Go! ” when opportunity strikes.
Mayke Nagtegaalis the COO of MessageBird, an Amsterdam-based cloud communications platform which, in 2017, created the largest-ever investment –$ 60 million–by a European software company. A former professional athlete, Nagtegaal speed-skated with the North Holland Region/ Utrecht KNSB from 2005 to 2008.
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