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.

Desarae Marhofer | CEO, Beautiful You Skincare Studio/Academy

I used to be so afraid to take risks when I was younger. I believe that came from a lack of trust and belief in myself. Sometimes it takes someone else’s belief in you to feel confident pursuing your dreams. That was the case for me. My hubby John, was the driving force for me starting my own solo esthetics business 12 years ago, and I have never looked back. Being in business for yourself requires courage. I believe that my courage came from seeing actual results with my business overtime. As I built my business and client base, I was able to trust myself and my entrepreneur abilities, and as the years went by I became more and more of a risk taker. Today I can say that I love taking risks, and I love trying new things. Sometimes those risks reap significant rewards and sometimes they are learning lessons, but either way I believe that you must be open to taking risks in life if you want to achieve your dreams and goals. Read more>>

Steph Lindsey | Artist, Yoga Instructor, Educator

Creativity is risk. I was always a creative kid…that was very precocious…taking apart vcr’s to see how they work kind-of precocious. Luckily my parents found ways to channel that into creative outlets. I was dancing and performing and making art since I can remember. Pursuing a creative life is a risk…you’re not guaranteed the security of a 9-5 job and even when you do have a 9-5 that helps you create stability, there might be a pull or longing to leave it to fill your time creating, making or doing. From yoga to painting to photography for me there has always been a common thread of risk. With yoga the risk shows up internally as an instructor, I am constantly wondering how a cue or pose feels, and whether the intention I set for the class is felt and received. When I’m painting (mostly acrylic pours) risk shows up as decisions, my decision to use or not use a particular color, what the underpainting looks like, when do I stop…if I stop too soon or too late will it hold up or become a muddled mess. In photography risk comes from working outside the technical perimeters of your equipment. Read more>>

Ivy Overby | Founder of Emerge Modern Salon

We have been a company that has taken many big risks during our time in business. From 2 expansions in our original location, to buying and completely rennovating our building in Englewood, to closing our first location and finally a remodel during Covid. While each decision required tons of faith and even more hard work, every risk taken pushed us further up the ladder toward a more stable, creative and innovative business. Without taking these chances we certainly would’ve missed many incredible lessons and opportunities that make us who we are today. I also believe our constant willingness to pivot and reach for the stars has served as an inspiration and energy creator for our team and for our brand as a whole. Read more>>

Mac Gaugh | Entrepreneur, Climber, Artist

Having spent over twenty years of my life as a rock climber, risk has always been paramount with anything I do. Most outdoor activities I would find myself a part of were fairly high octane. Having struggled with addiction for a similar amount of time played right into that lifestyle. In terms of a career, I have only had one job I could consider a career and that was as an environmental engineer. Everything else was short-lived, mainly because I couldn’t seem to find anything that was stimulating enough. I spent ten additional years pursuing multiple degrees after obtaining my original degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in Botony/Microbiology. So, I finally decided to take a chance and start CREAG, the ultimate risk. I would say that taking risks has, and always will be a part of me no matter what I do. As I have gotten a bit older, I can decipher the difference between low and high-risk behavior. However, I will always take more from something when the risk is high. Read more>>

Laura McElfresh | Artist

When risk presents itself – I try to see it as an opportunity. As an artist – even showing your art to another person is “risky” in a sense.. our art is essentially baring our souls. It’s putting ourselves out into the world in a very visual sense. Saying “This is what is important to me, this is what I want you to hear and know about me.” With something so personal to communicate – there is great risk! One of my favorite quotes is from Vincent Van Gogh. “If you hear a voice within you say, “You cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. ” When I think of that quote and I’m reminded that if Vincent Van Gogh had those very doubts, those very thoughts — of self doubt and inner dialouge. And just think — had he listened and let those thoughts rule him. We would not have his masterpeices today. We know he was troubled and plagued by mental illness and yet he painted, prolificly. And we are so blessed to have his art in our world today. Read more>>

Brook Aitken | Cinematographer

I think when I was younger I don’t necessarily make a conscious decision about risk versus reward. Growing up competing on a national level in both ski racing and kayaking risk-taking came very natural to me. Going 75 miles an hour on a downhill course or hucking off of a 40 foot water fall, it’s all a risk. However if you have put in the time & preparation that leads up to those decisions it doesn’t seem nearly as risky. I have always had a healthy & relatively high threshold for fear I guess you could say. As I’ve gotten older I’ve had more time to reflect on my decisions regarding risk, as one does. As I look back on my career up to this point I think I certainly took a few risks both artistically and perhaps physically that I wouldn’t necessarily do over today. We risk going to jail or potentially being stabbed by angry fisherman in Japan while making the cove but then again I also didn’t have my kids back then. I got shot up in a Black Hawk helicopter (also before kids) in the cocaine fields of the FARK controlled territory in Columbia. We survived and moved on, only later to be shot at while on the ground as well. Read more>>

Chef Sarah Chianese | Mangia and Enjoy! – Chef/Owner & Consultant

Experience has definitely led me to trust my instincts when it comes to plunging head first into change…and so far, it has definitely resulted in an extremely satisfactory, intriguing, albeit often quite challenging life. My current career as a Chef is one I actually enjoyed a couple of decades ago at which time my talented senior partner in culinary delights moved to Hawaii and I was left at a young age to determine whether or not I would pursue a career in catering on my own, or dive into production – another passion of mine. I opted for production at that time and enjoyed that for 20 years before coming back to my first love: Cooking! No regrets – and with many additional jobs throughout those years while raising my children (I have juggled many jobs simultaneously to make sure we always had a roof over our heads and food on the table) I have zero regrets. Only gratitude. Risk must be taken to gain the reward. Even on a personal level, although terrified of heights, I went skydiving (and fell quite in love with it for a spell. Read more>>

Hannah Beeghly | Musician

I’ve always been a very cautious person even though I pretend not to be. I have lived most of my life avoiding risks and feeling severely anxious, and when given the choice between sitting out or feeling vulnerable, I’ve often chosen to sit out. It’s made life feel more lonely than it needs to be and certainly scarier. This perspective didn’t start to shift for me until I began teaching. One of our school’s goals was for our students to have growth mindsets and to take risks. As I read through the teaching materials and tried to think of risk-taking examples in my own life, I realized I had almost none. I’d always been so afraid of failing that I’d usually not participate rather than try and face possible embarrassment. Working together as a class to grow our risk-taking skills made me aware of how much room I had for improvement, and seeing my students change and mature reminded me that it IS possible to do, despite how difficult it can feel. I’ve since switched from teacher to musician, and I recognize I could not have made such a big career leap without the risk-taking I’d practiced with my students. Read more>>

Tiffany Matheson | Artist

While there are different kinds of risk, I find calculated risk to be an essential part of achievement. Without risk there is no change and change is a healthy, invigorating facet to being alive. I have taken many risks in my life, perhaps most notably by being willing to start over; I left a successful career in international business to return to school with the intent of being a physician and graduated with a degree in Biology only to decide to pursue a career as an artist instead. In the studio I encounter risk constantly with each new method or material I experiment with; at times I achieve the desired outcome immediately and other times I learn ways of interpreting and utilizing unexpected results. My attitude toward risk can be summed up in Albert Einstein’s quote “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” May we all have the courage to risk trying new things. Read more>>

Paul Hoskinson | CEO of Fido Pro and Chief Designer For Our Products; Protective Gear for Backcountry Dogs.

My activities range from skiing local backcountry ski lines to major climbing expeditions in the Himalayas. These activities require a great deal of “risk assessment”. One of the major things that can cloud judgment is the ego. Many of the fatal accidents I have seen over the years can be directly related to the climber or skier using poor judgment that appeared to have been related to the ego or the “I got this attitude”. Not being honest with oneself and the reality of their situation can be fatal when deciding whether or not to proceed in the backcountry. It can be equally fatal when starting a business. I decided to start my company Fido Pro because of a backcountry ski accident I had with my dog. I needed to carry her from the backcountry and it was quite difficult. Our story ended well but it could have easily gone the other way. I searched for a lightweight dog rescue sling that I could carry with me but found no such product. Read more>>

Andy Eppler | Artist

Risk is necessary in the arts because vulnerability is necessary and eventual judgment of the work is both righteous and unavoidable. Some risks like financial ruin are obvious but I believe that the risking of social judgment is what keeps most people out of the arts. Luckily, the simulation has largely trained me out of that kind of thinking. I spent much of my childhood being isolated and punished by authority figures in school, in church, and in my personal life. I was a good hearted and very sensitive middle child who really craved some kind of approval or genuine acceptance but I kept receiving the message that I was bad and that I could never be one of the “good kids”. Those kids all seemed like silent, genius monks compared to me. Eventually, I internalized the message that the punishment was always coming no matter how hard I tried to “be good”. Somewhere deep inside my heart and mind, I believed I was a lost cause. Read more>>

Corey Lynch | Travel Photographer

Risk is such a big part of living a fulfilling life in my opinion. I know I would not be where I am today without taking a few chances on opportunities I wasn’t 100% sure were right for me. While I still am not completely living my ideal life, I recall working my first internship and office job the summer of my sophomore year in college. I took it knowing most of what I would make that summer would be commission based. That was terrifying knowing I was studying abroad the following semester and that I REALLY needed to make enough to enjoy that experience. That was also extremely motivational for me and gave me an extra edge that many of my peers lacked. During that summer, there was one quote that has stuck with me ever since that went something along the lines of, “If you’re not uncomfortable in life, you’re doing something wrong and you are never going to grow into a better version of yourself.” From that day on, I have made it my mission to live uncomfortably. Read more>>

Ismael De Sousa | Baker & Bakery Owner

You have to be willing to risk it all, (“most likely if you are fairly young, that doesn’t mean much in monetary value”). But to draw a picture. I risked everything when moving to the US, then again moving to Colorado, and finally again opening Reunion, that uncertainty keeps you going, makes you grow, but also brings a bit of calmness in times like the ones we live in now, Risk equals opportunity, you either take it or let it pass. Read more>>

Carolyn E. Wentz | Owner, Littleton Massage & Sports Recovery

“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” — Goethe. Throughout my entire life, risk taking has been a part of my DNA. It never occurred to me to play it safe. From the time I was a little girl, playing baseball instead of softball to an adult choosing a trip to Africa over the Bahamas, I have believed some of our greatest blessings follow risk taking. Each risk gets us closer to revealing what we are truly capable of and what our potential limits might be. I like to push limits. In my career, this has both served me very well and also caused some tension. When it benefited my career, it meant success, it meant advancing and it meant respect from others. When it caused tension, I learned either what limits I needed to embrace or that it was time for a career move. Risk taking has been a major part of my life story and its the reason I am now an entrepreneur, living my best life in Colorado. In my personal life, there are too many blessings to count as a result of risks. Read more>>

Farley McDonough | Small Business Owner and Restauranteur

I think of risk as completely necessary in my world; uncomfortable but simply part of the fabric of owning a small business. Owning a small biz, in my case a restaurant, means you are investing in your self. There is no where to hide when you screw up, nothing to fall back on and no one else to blame. Not everyone can handle that. But there is also tremendous inner strength that comes from owning those dreadful moments, reflecting and moving on. When I bought Adam’s in 2001 I had 6000.00 in my savings account. I was a server with a high school diploma and no business experience at all. In the first year I almost lost the business twice due to my lack of experience. But I refused to give up or run. I will never forget the fear every night when there was nothing to distract me and I was forced to think about my situation. But I got through it and afterwards it got easier to take all the risks needed in order to be in business 20 years. Read more>>