All this month the Risk Report has focused on the importance of identifying risk. And, while we had another piece ready to go that touched on this topic, following the events in Brussels this past week, and the ongoing chaos around the world, I felt urged to take a different approach. I hope that you will indulge me as I take a step back and discuss the importance of identifying risk a little closer to home in an open letter to my two daughters.
My Dearest Emersen & Arabella,
While you are both too young to read or understand what I am writing to you today, the beauty of the written word is that it lives on beyond months, years and even generations. I hope that when the time comes that you can comprehend the things that I discuss in this letter, that you will examine each of them for yourselves and recognize what you know in your heart is right.
Your dad has dedicated his vocational life to managing risk. I have spent the better part of my career conveying to clients that the first step to effectively managing risk is identifying it. And, while I don’t want to talk to you as a client, the reality is that you will face many different risks throughout your life, and the process of identifying them can sometimes be critical and yet complex. Emerging risks are ever present in the world, and much like my generation has faced situations that my parents and grandparents may not have even comprehended, so too will you see a changing world that brings new avenues of risk with it. It is my hope that through the words that follow within this message you find the ability to identify hazards, avoiding the possibility of peril, and instead create within the tides of uncertainty, opportunity.
Lesson 1: You don’t know what you don’t know. Recognize that within each and every situation you might face lies the potential for areas of uncharted territory. Try to always seek advice and counsel from someone that has ‘been there’ before. Ask questions, and in the absense of information, continue to seek comprehension. Ignorance does not provide protection from reality. Just because you don’t know or didn’t recognize the potential impact of a risk in your life, doesn’t negate the validity of the situation. Seek the wisdom of those that may have answers and in the absence of certainty continue to strive for knowledge.
Lesson 2: Don’t allow education to trump intelligence. Some of the smartest and most successful people I know are the least corporately educated people I’ve met. Your generation likely will be the most informed in the history of mankind, yet have the least amount of real life experience. Do not shy away from education, but don’t be so naive as to think that it can only be found in a classroom setting. There is such a thing as ‘street smart’. Judge those around you not by what paper is hung on their wall, but the fruits of their labor. Never stop learning even when you feel that there is nothing more to gain. The reality is that situations change and so should your ability and desire to study.
Lesson 3: There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. It’s important that in all you do, be confident in your actions; however, don’t let your confidence bleed over into arrogance. The people you encounter in your life will appreciate a level of confidence that you have in what you do, but will resent arrogance. Never forget that humility is a valuable trait. It is better to stay humble rather than be humbled. You want those you associate with to respect you – they will respect a level of confidence, but despise arrogance.
Lesson 4: The “Jack of all Trades” is often the master of none. It is commendable to be well-versed in many facets of life, but know that every person has a capacity. It’s okay if you are not an expert at everything. Recognize what you are passionate about and what makes you feel relevant and pursue that to its fullest. Be sure to utilize your talents where they will allow you to flourish. It’s okay to not excel at everything you do in life as there will be things that just aren’t natural to who you are. Always remember that someone that is good at everything is often great at nothing.
Lesson 5: If you always tell the truth, you won’t have to remember what you say. If you take note of nothing else on this list, be sure to concern yourself with this. The truth is the truth, it doesn’t change. Never allow your integrity to be compromised in anything you do. We will all be judged and when that day comes, stand tall in that which you said and did. You may not always win in life and the easy road may not include honesty, but a much more difficult road lies ahead for those that are dishonest. Be true to others, and always be true to yourself.
Lesson 6: Failure is a reality, learn from it. I have learned more from times where I tried and failed than those times when I tried and succeeded. My hope for you is that throughout your life, you will triumph more than you will fall, but when that time comes that you do (and you will), get up and move on. Recognize the failure and learn from it. It’s okay to make mistakes and have mis-steps, but the key is not to make the same mistakes more than once. By learning from your failures you will be more apt to prevent them in the future.
Lesson 7: Crow is best served hot. There will come a time in your life when you make a mistake. If you are fortunate, those times will be fewer than not, but when that time comes, own the mistake and do it quickly. Don’t let it linger, and attempt to make it right. When mistakes happen that are the result of your doing, don’t ‘pass the buck’ and don’t deflect. I have more respect for those that have owned their mistakes than I do for those that find someone else to blame them on. Going back to my earlier point, at some time in your life, failure is imminent. When errors occur face them head on and if you are rejected because of them, move on, but know that when the rubber met the road, you did what was right and owned up to your shortcomings. By admitting your faults, you will also be able to own your victories.
Lesson 8: Never be afraid to listen to dissenting voices. The world is polarized and there will be times when you encounter those that believe just as strongly as you do in that which is the opposing opinion you have. That’s okay. Be principled in that which you firmly believe and stand up for it, but also recognize times when that which you believe may not always be that which others do. Everyone has the right to their own beliefs. Stand strong in yours, and passionately argue them, but recognize the rights of others to argue theirs. You may not always agree, but always remain open to hearing opposing views. When it comes to your opinions, don’t be so closed minded not to afford others theirs. And, it’s okay to change your opinions once all information is gathered. Wisdom isn’t always being right, it’s also recognizing when you are wrong.
Lesson 9: Associate with people that make you a better person or at the very least make you want to be. You are in complete control of who you associate with and allow to be associated with you. In all you do try to lift others up and be the voice of encouragement. Also recognize that it is sometimes easier to be pulled down than it is to be lifted up. Surround yourself with those that have an equal desire to lift you up and bring out the best in you. What you will find is that life is hard and is not meant to live alone. Create within your own circle a surrounding of those that value you for who you are and give as much as they take. You will, at some point in your life, encounter those that will want you to detract from your calling. Have the foresight to recognize them and the wisdom to remove yourself from their influence. Be someone that others aspire to be and be around.
Lesson 10: Evil is real – stand up to it, fight it, but don’t become part of it. Unfortunately at some point in your life, you will be faced with evil. It is a sad reality of the world, and one that since the beginning of time has never been eradicated. You may hear the words at some point in your life that “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Those words aren’t just some corny saying that me and your mother will tell you throughout your childhood, but actually accurate. Evil flourishes when it’s compounded. It is said that evil prevails when good men do nothing. That will never be truer than in your lifetime. As life becomes more global the opportunity for evil to triumph will become more prevalent. In all that you do, stand up to it at every level. Surround yourself with those that will passionately take up the fight with you and in the end you will overcome it.
In summary, the greatest gift in my life is you and your mother. Of all the responsibilities I have, you are my greatest. My job is to protect you, but part of that is teaching you to ultimately protect yourself. Please take note of these words I have given you and reflect on them often. Do what is right even when it’s not what is easy. Also, be aware that recognizing the problem is equally as important as finding the solution to it. The world is an amazing place filled with wonders, but also hurdles. Identify the risks you will face and face them head on with the confidence to overcome them.
There is only one you. Know that your dad loves you more than you will ever know and as long as I’m able, will do my part to support you in the management of the risks you will encounter. Be confident, be relevant, and be wise.
All my love,