There is a wealth of academic research that suggests that differences in risk appetite are at the heart of differences in career and business trajectories. We wanted to go beyond the theory and ask real people from the community about their perspectives and experiences with risk and risk taking.

Cristi López | Illustrator, Painter, and Educator

One of the biggest professional and personal risks I’ve taken was moving from my home state of Florida to Chicago in early 2017, about six months after graduating from college. I had spent months and months applying to jobs in vain, and eventually decided it was time to put myself somewhere and make it happen. I wasn’t sure what “it” was, but I knew it would utilize my drawing and painting skills. A few weeks after moving to Chicago, I got a job at an art center in the city, which turned into a residency, and things snowballed from there. I eventually showed my paintings at some of my dream galleries, made friends with artists I used to admire from afar, painted murals around the city– the list goes on. None of these things would have happened had I not taken that huge leap. I am a stronger artist and person for it. As someone who values order and control, life has taught me time and time again that some of its greatest gifts can’t simply be willed into existence. Risk creates space for discovery. Read more>>

Alexandra Chamizo | Spiritual Healer + Counselor

A lot of my growth and expansion within my life and career has come from taking risks. Taking a risk that is set with the goal of growing, often times just means taking an action that feels uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable because it means being vulnerable, it means doing things that are outside of my own comfort. It means potentially things not working out the way I want to. When I sit in a bubble of complacency and comfortability, my energy, my work, my drive, my passions become stagnant. I have to take the risk, the action, to continue evolving so I can continue showing up for myself and for my communities. I have struggled with addiction most of my life. When I got sober from drugs and alcohol a few years ago, it was very apparent to me that I didn’t want to get sober to just live a half fulfilled life. So much of my passion was dimmed and numbed from addiction and that spark was ignited when I got sober. If I wanted the things I truly desired for my life and career I had to take risks, I had to move through uncomfortability. Read more>>

Amy Parsons | CEO of Mozzafiato

When it comes to my professional life, I would not say that I have ever been a risk taker. I grew up in a very stable and supportive environment with parents who valued education. My brothers and I all went to college, graduate school, and two of us became attorneys and one a doctor. I went straight into private practice at a large firm, then became in-house counsel to CSU where I spent 16 years working my way up through becoming COO and then Executive Vice Chancellor of the System. All the while my husband and I were raising our two daughters. While I’m grateful for that career as it offered challenging and impactful work and I was able to travel the world and build some amazing projects, I eventually realized that I had to take a risk and get out of that comfort zone if I was going to really expand and progress as a person and a professional. There is a quote to the effect that “Don’t be afraid of failure, be afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter to you. Read more>>

Edward Gia | Photographer

I think risk has for sure played somewhat of an important role in my life and work. My work as an artist derives from my personal life by photographing my family and looking through our photo albums. To put not only myself but my family out there is a huge risk within itself because of how would the work be interpreted to others when viewing it. Despite those worrying thoughts constantly wandering around, I continue to do and feel what’s right when it comes to my work. Read more>>

Alyssa Wilson | Designer & Illustrator

Risk taking used to never be part of my formula. I liked to play it safe and kind of make what I thought other people would like, but I was feeling burnt out and unfulfilled. So, I then began taking risks. I stepped away from more realistic art. I began using more bold outlines and I also forced myself to limit my color palette to a few select colors! From there, I felt challenged and pushed and started producing better work, so I think risk taking and understanding failure as an opportunity to start again with a new perspective is super important as an artist!. Read more>>

Cate Downey | Singer-Songwriter

Working in the music industry, there is no “traditional path” to success, everyone’s journey is different! For me, taking risks is a huge part of how I’ve gotten to where I am. I took the risk of attending a brand new music program in Norway rather than having a traditional education. It was a huge leap of faith and I am so glad I took the jump. At school one of the biggest lessons I learned was to take the risk to create something out of the box rather than trying to replicate something that’s already been created. There is so much music in the world and the only way to stand out is to do something different!. Read more>>

Andrew Ehrnstein | Energy Consultant

I started my first business at age 26, and it quickly grew from 3 people to 8, then to a dozen and more. One quarter I had two good months and one bad one when I lost $5,000. Working hard and losing money is dispiriting, so I asked for some advice. My CPA simply said: Don’t have two losing months in a row. Inevitably, there will be ups and downs in business. My current business model has few downside risks since I don’t carry a large staff or overhead. The biggest risk would be lack of income, which would come from laziness, and I’ve never suffered from that. So I don’t worry about much. Just focus on achieving your mission with integrity, and it all works out. Read more>>

Michelle Slagell | Financial Advisor

Risk taking: how do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your life/career? I’ve always been a planner by nature, making strategic choices that are going to take me to where I want or need to be. But I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that complacency tends to be riskier than taking a chance or that leap of faith, risking failure. I took a risk by changing the trajectory of my career in 2019 and I could not be happier with the journey so far. I am honored to be serving my clients who are becoming my friends on this journey and my friends who are becoming my clients. There is risk in not having a strategy to retire comfortably, caring for your family or just protecting the financial future of the ones you care about the most. My number one priority is you. Learning what’s most important to you, what your comfort with risk is when investing and then creating a personalized strategy to meet your goals and continuing to work together as life happens. It all starts with a conversation, let’s chat!. Read more>>


Of course this is something one learns about themselves well into adulthood and with some good self-reflection, but apparently I have always been a risk-taker. At the age of sixteen I was flying around in an airplane across the midwest by myself, training to be a private pilot. Every time got in the Cessna 152 I felt a surge of excitement and fear. This was a risky situation as I was reminded in my mom’s eyes each time I left the house to go fly. But I loved it and it gave me a taste of adventure. In college someone saw me chopping down a tree at a work weekend at a Colorado camp and asked if I would be interested in being a Wilderness Guide for two summers. Three months later I was in guide training, sleeping in a tent for the first time in my life (we didn’t do a lot of camping in Minnesota where I grew up–think very large blood sucking mosquitoes), and rappelling down a cliff. For two summers I led groups of 15 or so teenagers on seven day wilderness trips in the San Juan Mountains. It was thrilling (and cold!) and challenging and I learned again that being out of my comfort zone is a place I actually like to live. Read more>>

Matt & Dr. Marty | Podcasters

Any business certainly has a level of risk. When starting a podcast you consider the risk of failing to connect with the audience, failing to create compelling content, and failing to learn the podcast business. We felt that while risk can be frightening, it is also exciting and necessary for any business. Risk has played a significant role in both of our careers in technology and science before we started our podcast. In our professional careers, we have had projects and podcasts that have failed, we have had unexpected outcomes in our work and personal lives. While this can certainly be a set back it is also a tremendous opportunity to grow and share our experiences. Read more>>

Kelly Bolen | Lifestyle Blogger

I have always been a risk taker. Especially if I set a goal. When my children were small I quit my job as a Corporate Trainer with a large insurance company and decided to open my own daycare so I could raise my children and not rely on someone else to do it. To this day, I can see the expression on my hubby’s face when I told him I had given two weeks notice at my job. But as with all things, I did my homework, I took courses and I had a PLAN with a deadline, And I made it happen. Once my kids were grown and went away to college, I felt a little lost as I had spent most of my adult life raising them and helping my husband with his business. I felt like I no longer had an identity. So after a couple years of trying different things I stumbled across a blogging course that my daughter had suggested. And out of that came Colorado Kelly. Not only it is a creative outlet for me but it is something I am very proud of, My main goal is to be a resource for all women where they know I will give them the best information for travel, recipes, DIYs and more. Hopefully my integrity shines through with all that I do and write about. I truly love helping others. Read more>>

Evan Lovett | Professional Artist

I personally prefer the term creative gambling to “risk taking”. I implemented creative gambling in almost every professional and artistic endeavors that I pursue. When I have an idea for a project that I want to fulfill for myself I’m aware that it might fail, that it might fall short of perfect and that there will inevitably be kinks to work out in the process. But those “problems” are what I need to happen in order to overcome the challenges and be prepared for doing it agin. Bigger and better. But when going after opportunities that aren’t presented to you it’s a gamble. I’ve conceptualized, outlined and invested time, energy and money into things that I had no idea would catch traction or not. You bring this idea fully fleshed out to others in hopes that people will want to back it, support it or invest in it. That too is a gamble cause it might not work out. In my experience it does more often then not. But for me even when it doesn’t it’s not a loss. It’s just practice on creating ideas. Building pitch decks approaching support. And the next time I have to do it all I’m better at it. Read more>>

Sturdy Barbie | Designer

Risk is a funny concept for me. There was a time when I first started my business that I thought about ‘taking the risk’ to do so, but very quickly the idea that I was taking a chance on something dissipated and it just became – this is going to happen – whatever it is that I decide I want to make out of this brand, will happen. The idea of risking my money and time to pour into Sturdy, evolved into – this is an investment because I have that level of certainty that I can see this through to fruition. Once that mindset changed for me, things started falling into place and that’s where I am now. In short, taking risks to enable a dream are highly necessary at first, then the idea is that it becomes so real in your mind that the component of ‘this could fail’ is no longer on the table. And that is where the magic begins. Read more>>

Amanda Lima | Owner of Lima Coffee Roasters

I think taking risks are definitely hard but no one would have their own business if they never took the risk to follow their dreams. We took a huge risk by opening our first retail location in July 2020, right in the middle of a pandemic. People definitely thought we were crazy but we took the risk to pursue our passion in coffee and the support in our community has been incredible! We have actually had such a good response that we are looking to open a second location sometime this year. Read more>>

Melanie Grein | Artist

I am most definitely a risk taker. I do try to manage risks by gathering as much data as possible to maximize the chance of a positive outcome. Every choice has does have consequences, but I have found that silver linings can always be found no matter what the outcome of the risk. Certain risks are no brainers, like adopting a sweet, curious, toothless, abused little old man in the form of a chihuahua. I’m in love with that little guy and I’ve never looked back. That risk has paid off twenty fold. Most risks are life-changers, like marriage. I married a man who was reaching for the stars. It was my choice to support him for 14 years to pursue his goals. The marriage ultimately ended, and I started over. Time passed, and I am now stronger and more self confident than I ever would have been without the failures, challenges and ultimate successes of this period of my life. I discovered that success is sometimes much more complex and rewarding than a fairy tale happy ending. Read more>>

Amanda Baida | Social Media Marketer & Event Planner

I’ve taken 2 large risks in my life and both of those were starting businesses. Over the past 10 years, I’ve started 2 companies that were the first of their kind in the market. When I started my social media marketing company 10 years ago, I received a lot of doubt from friends, family and co-workers at the time. ‘Social media is a fad’, ‘You can’t make money doing social media’, etc. Today, I run a successful agency working with companies all across the U.S. When I started my luxury picnic company, no one else in the state of Colorado was offering luxury picnics. I had no idea if the company would be a success, if it was an experience anyone wanted or if I could even run such a business in our local parks. After a lot of research, testing and feedback, I developed a Instagram-worthy outdoor event planning company that now has several businesses mimicking my concept. Without taking these risks, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Read more>>

Genevieve Smith | Decorative Painter/Muralist

Calculated risk taking is important. I don’t want to look back and regret not taking certain chances. Being a mother of two young girls provides role model incentive. I want them to be brave and make authentic choices that are true to their character, therefore I try to lead by example. I’m not scared of failure and I believe this can be used as a powerful lesson, one that brings you wisdom and humility. Read more>>

Raemi Rhue | Commercial Photographer

I have admittedly taken more risks in my life than the average person would be comfortable with. I’ll be honest, I’m a rule breaker. Most rules don’t make sense to my brain, so I prefer to make my own as long as no one gets hurt. This mentality has helped grow my business, as I don’t put boxes around my clients and listen hard to what they need so I can cater to that. Read more>>

Denise Zubizarreta | Mixed Media Interdisciplinary Artist

The world is full of risk and for many that can lead to fear. Risk has always been something I’ve mitigated. Even as a child. It seemed to me, very early on, that everything was a risk. Every choice, every moment, all of it was a gamble and if I was going to survive, I would need to become accustomed to navigating the risks thoughtfully and purposefully. I could say the cliché thing and point out that with great risk comes great reward and the equal opportunity for great failure. But I can’t just leave it at that. With great failure after great risk there is something much more impactful, the development of great resilience. Read more>>

Jason Tietjen | Bar Owner

Self-employment is not for everyone. I’ve been a W2 employee only once in my adult life. While owning your own business can and should be one of the scariest thing you do in life. Risking everything you have in life for the pursuit of prosperity and success comes with a price. Risk challenges you on all fronts of life specifically the balance between happiness, health, friends. family and loved ones. Finding balance is the hardest part when it pertains to risk. I’ve raised tons of capital in my career and have opened up nearly 10 businesses in my 50 years on this Earth. I’ve personally risked everything 3 times along the road. I’ve failed more than I have succeeded. I’ve hit home runs and I have fallen flat on my face. Risk has pushed me to never stop trying. Risk teaches you that you will do whatever it takes to be successful or die trying. Risk can be your best friend and your ugliest enemy. But with high risk comes high reward. If you are not willing to lose it all or take a chance the security of a 9 to 5 corporate job might make more sense for you but I can assure you the satisfaction you’ll get knowing that you own your own business will be one of the most gratifying things you can accomplish in life. Read more>>

Samantha Cauchy | Artist – Painter

Living the life of an artist is all about taking risks while having fun and loving what you are doing along the way! Without giant leaps into the unknown I wouldn’t be where I am today, pursuing art as a full time career with the ability to paint every day and on my own terms. Was it risky to leave an accredited university education and instead seek the tutelage of artists and mentors who are masters of specific painting techniques? Many would say absolutely, however this choice opened doors for me that otherwise would have remained closed and lightened the financial burden of student loans and college expenses. Once I had made this decision everything else fell right into place. For the next four years I was able to work full time as an artist and pursue a private education based on my own needs and desire to learn. After a while I realized that I wanted to take another risk and work part time outside of the studio to supplement my income. Read more>>

Jessie Matthews | Creator, Meditator, Loctician & Hairstylist

Without taking risks, nothing would be created. To me risk taking is a dance of courage and surrender. It really takes something for me to continue to show up for myself and for others as a demonstration of the possibility I am creating. It is demanding and takes some grit, discipline, and humility because oftentimes when we start something new, there is a lot that is calling for us to fail, even if it is our own inner saboteur. It’s important to work through that while living a created life- to work through the imposter syndrome and just keep showing up as this new possibility.. Its less about proving it to myself or the world and more about demonstrating to the Universe that I am willing to show up for “that thing” and that I am worth of it. Someone told me something once that I have never forgotten, “Deserving power isn’t something that is given to you. You have to take it for yourself.” I still carry that lesson with me and I continue to show up because I know that whatever I am working towards is ultimately up to me to create. As momentum builds, confidence grows, and then I just keep going. Read more>>

Somah Devi Ma | Essential oil importer & spiritual guide

I enter change the word risk with opportunity, generally in my life. When I was 11, a trip to Europe was offered to my older brother and then my older sister; they both refused and I took it. I saw it as an opportunity not a risk. I’ve been living my life with that theory ever since. Ive ridden a motorcycle over the highest motorable road in the world, in the Himalayan ‘s. It’s a risk but it shows me my limitless nature. It teaches me that fear is a luxury and that focus & freedom is where expansion happens. Read more>>

Angie Wright | Performing Artist & Founder of Prodigees project LLC

Growing up I’ve always considered myself a big risk taker. Ive always lived by the saying, “you miss 100% of the shots you dont take”. And like Will Smith said, “He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right. Youre not gonna get what you want by not getting up and doing. And that comes with taking risk, putting yourself out there , and living. That goes with all aspects of life. You want that job go get it, you want to start that business do it. The goal is to start somewhere and when you do, dont stop. For me I took a risk at starting a business in high school, I didnt know what I was doing but I was sure of where I wanted to go. At 19 I started investing, and again I didnt know what I was doing but the risk of starting has amazing benefits at the end. You have to find something, a purpose greater than yourself but to do so its gonna be risky, its not gonna be easy. The key to remember is if you do what is easy your life will be hard, but if you do what is hard then, well, your life will be easy. Read more>>

Allyson Fredeen | General Manager – Stanley Marketplace

For me, risk taking comes down to purpose, intent and of course, evaluating the risk vs. reward. I ask myself, “Who or what will be impacted, positively or negatively? Is there potential to generate a strong force for positive change or growth? What am I ultimately trying to achieve by taking this risk, and what are the stakes if the risk doesn’t pan out?” I tend to be an “overthinker” and carefully examine heavy decisions I make, personally and professionally, sometimes keeping me up at night. Ultimately, if I feel, deep down that integrity and improvement are at the forefront, the reward will be worth the risk taken. When I think about where I am now, it was a series of pretty big risks that led me to here. I moved to Chicago without knowing a soul for my college internship at Bloomingdale’s, working in the Public Relations department. I knew nothing about PR (I was a design & merchandising major). After landing my dream job as an Assistant PR Manager for their Miami stores, I eventually moved back home to Denver. Read more>>

Kristen Chen | Concert Pianist & Mixed-Media Artist

Risk has played an important part of my creative journey. I have been a professional musician all of my adult life, so risk is a huge component in performance. Every time I walk out onto the stage, I face the critique of the audience. No matter how I feel inside, it’s essential that I walk out in confidence, greet my audience with a smile and play my heart. Risk also plays a big part in my more recent endeavors as an artist. While music has always been my life, my work in art is fairly recent. I’ve always loved art, but never thought it was something I could be good at. I started with a class in 2015 that spurred my love and commitment to pursue painting, and now 6 years later I am showing and selling my art. Read more>>