“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Muhammad Ali
“Take calculated risks. That’s quite different from being rash” George S Patton
Ali was a fearless warrior, outspoken political activist, and all-around disruptor. He never backed down from a fight, both inside and outside the ring. Patton was a revered WWII general, commanding US forces on the ground in the European theatre. Like Ali, he never backed down from a fight but had a slightly different perspective on risk.
While I have never spoken to these men, and cannot consider myself to be an historical expert on the lives of either man, I can see a fundamental difference between them that might be the explanation as to why the different outlooks on risk.
Ali’s decisions primarily affected Ali alone, so when he decided he would not participate in the Vietnam war, he alone suffered the consequences and shouldered the punishment. Patton’s decisions directly affected the lives of thousands of soldiers. He had to weigh the outcomes of his choices against the human cost they would inflict.
As entrepreneurs and business owners, our decisions may not carry the same weight as a championship heavyweight boxer or a four-star general, but we do need to understand what the consequences of our choices will be, and who they might affect. When you’re running a startup, just opening the doors and turning on the lights is a risk. You have no idea if what you are doing will have the results you want.
Ali was more exciting to watch, a better showman and better loved than Patton, but in the end, Patton had the right idea. Even if your business consists of just you, your choices will affect many around you, so when you decide to take a risk, be sure to make it a calculated one.