Taking Risks to Boost Your Career


The phrase “get out of your comfort zone” is always uttered when you’re being motivated to do better in life. It’s the same with dealing with phobias. For someone who’s afraid of heights to deal with his fear, he is slowly being subjected to increasing heights so as to desensitize him. The point is to get out of your comfort zone so you could grow. So if you’re too comfortable with the direction your career is going, perhaps you may not be taking enough risks.

Why would you need to take a risk if everything’s all set for you? To that, you should ask another question. Are you truly happy with your career that you feel you have reached the highest you can go or are you just settling for a stressful job that pays well? If it’s the latter, then you may find a lot of other opportunities if you take risks.

Risks need not be huge ones. It’s as simple as volunteering for a presentation when you have a fear of speaking in public. It’s as small as striking up a conversation with the big boss of the company if you find yourself alone with him in the smoking area. Again, the core idea is to get out of your comfort zone. By handling a presentation, you not only get over your fear of talking in front of an audience, you get to add public speaking to your repertoire.

The bigger risks to take often involve leaving your current position or company and, again, outside of your comfort zone. For instance, if you hold a higher-tier position in the IT department, you can try your luck at being in sales where you can have the chance to reap good commission. You may also take a crack at a trainer position if you have developed a knack for public speaking from all those presentations.

Finally, there’s also taking a risk with another company. If you have gotten too comfortable with your current standing in your company and would like to experience something fresh, you can apply for a good position in another and expand your skill set.

Do note that there’s a difference between taking risks for your career and gambling it away. Jumping blindly into a situation you don’t understand is never a good idea. Your career is on the line here, so take risks only if you understand the rewards and the possible pitfalls you may encounter.

Was the Dardanelles Campaign Nothing But a Failure, and Are There Lessons For Us All Today?


By as early as the beginning of 1915 Winston Churchill, The First Lord of the Admiralty, was appalled at the way the War was going, at the apparent stalemate in the trenches on the Western Front and at the acknowledgement that it was becoming a war of attrition. He was frustrated that nobody seemed to have a plan for a breakthrough to achieve an early victory. He devised the plan for a campaign in the Dardanelles as a possible solution. The aim was to capture Constantinople from Germany’s ally the Turkish Empire, and draw a lot of the efforts of our enemies away from the Western Font, or from the Russian Front, or even both.

The Result.

The campaign went on for many months, resulting in a very high loss of life, and was ultimately unsuccessful. Churchill was blamed for proposing the plan in the first place, for many of the specific mistakes, and for continuing with it once it had become obvious to almost everyone else that it was not working, although some people believe it was a good plan but not carried out very well. This failure led to hid becoming extremely unpopular, and was one factor in his being dropped from the Government for over a year.

Different historians have different views as to the main reasons for this failure. The list includes:

· Poor planning,

· Underestimating the problems,

· Beginning too soon, before everything was ready,

· Giving the enemy time to get reinforcements and strengthen the defences,

· Lack of commitment by some of the commanders,

· Poor communication between the Army and Navy,

It is thought of as a good example of “How Not to Do It”.

The What If..

There has been far less discussion of what might have been, if it had succeeded. Now I know that whenever you say “if only” someone says you need to forget that and concentrate on dealing with things as they are, and usually that is good advice, but just for once I would like us to dwell on “if only” a little. Think about the effects on the World if:

· The War had ended two years earlier than it did.

· Britain had not been taken to the edge of starvation.

· Germany had not been devastated. (Would the Kaiser have survived?)

· Russia had not endured such losses – would the Revolution have happened?

· America had not needed to join the War.

· Women had not been needed to work in factories.

One thing is almost certain. Both Churchill and Prime Minister Asquith would have been a lot more popular. Would Lloyd George have become Prime Minister?

Was It Just a Gamble?

You could say that Churchill took a gamble and lost. But that is not quite fair. There were risks in not doing anything, but allowing the war of attrition to continue. The difference between gambling and Risk Management is that in gambling no risk exists unless you choose to accept it. Risk Management attempts to manage those risks which already exist. I am unaffected by the outcome of the Derby, the Grand National, the F.A. Cup, the Test Match, or the Boat Race, unless I choose to place a bet, whereas the risks in my business are there whether I like it or not. I remember a cartoon in one of the daily papers back in the 1970′s. It showed two businessmen passing a news-stand. There were two posters beside it. One read “Ali to fight Frazier” whilst the other read “Heath to fight inflation”. One of the businessmen comments “at least with Ali and Frazier we can choose which one to back.” He obviously recognised that we all had a vested interest in the battle with inflation. Doing nothing is not necessarily the safe option. Some businesses have gone out of business because they failed to take a chance.

How Statistics Have Helped Women


There are two reasons why I tend to be skeptical of statistics or anything else, until I have good reason to believe.

Firstly, I am not a very trusting person in my nature. My patron saint is really St John the Evangelist but some people think it should be St Thomas the Doubter. Well, that is fair enough, because, like Thomas, I am usually skeptical, but am open to being convinced by reason and evidence. (Remember that Thomas eventually believed in the Resurrection when he had seen the risen Christ with his own eyes).

Secondly, I have spent many years in Internal Audit and also many years dealing with liability claims. I have come across many frauds, scams, and dishonest claims. Wherever there is an opportunity to make a dishonest penny, or several, there is always someone there to make the most of it: and if every claim I have seen for tripping on the pavement was true, you ought to see someone fall down nearly every time you go out!

However, I do not distrust statistics in particular. Dishonest people use anything they can: facts, words, pictures, quotes, the Bible, and of course statistics. There are also many people who use statistics lazily and mislead others without intending to be dishonest, because they do not think clearly about what they really mean, or they have misled themselves into jumping to conclusions which the facts do not really support.

Yet all these things can be used rightly and in a way that informs rather than misleads. The Victorian Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli is supposed to have said there were “Lies, damned lies and statistics”, but the writer Andrew Lang said of someone “he uses statistics as a drunken man uses a lamp-post: for support rather than illumination”, thus blaming the user rather than the “lamp-post”. Well, I want us all to gain illumination as we use statistics whether in Risk Management or in anything else. They can help us to:

establish facts
reduce guesswork
gain a sense of proportion
identify the most important issues
find what works and what does not.

If any group of people should be grateful for statistics being used correctly, that group is women!

I can remember a time when very few women drove cars, and very few drivers were women. You did not need to look at any statistics to notice that. In those days most men thought women were definitely inferior to men as drivers, whatever else they might be good at. Insurance companies accepted this as received wisdom, and charged women higher premiums than men. Nearly all comedians had a stock list of woman-driver jokes, generally about women being easily distracted by such trivia as sales adverts in shop windows, not knowing right from left, and thinking the car’s mirror was for checking their make-up. Some men thought that allowing women to drive was even more irresponsible than given them the vote. Ironically, one woman who did not drive was especially unpopular with most male motorists: the Minister of Transport in the mid-1960′s, Barbara Castle.

The cause of women’s equality was not helped by an unfortunate and highly publicised incident. There was a bus-conductress in Yorkshire, Bradford I think. (For the benefit of younger readers, I had better explain that a bus-conductor, or if female conductress, was someone who collected fares, issued tickets and maintained order on busses. Nowadays bus-drivers are expected to do all the foregoing duties as well as driving the vehicle. The change was made in the name of efficiency.) This woman was determined to become a bus-driver, and managed to get her employers to give her all the necessary training. There was then a lot of controversy as most of her male colleagues objected, putting management in a dilemma. After much debate, they let her drive. She then had three accidents in the first three days she was on the road. Whether this was due to her lack of ability, to the stress she was under with all the controversy, or just bad luck, I do not know. I do know that this single example was quoted frequently, as if conclusive proof that women should not be allowed to drive. You will observe that a single incident, or three, hardly counts as significant statistically.

Eventually women’s self-esteem was rescued, making the comedians seek other targets, by an unlikely band of champions: insurance underwriters! These unsung heroes actually knew how to collect, analyse and interpret statistics correctly. They discovered the fact that women generally had fewer accidents than men. This information led to lower premiums being charged to women-drivers, to the amazement of most men. I will not speculate as to the reasons for this difference, I merely state a fact.

Statistics have also helped the broader movement for women’s equality, by providing factual information as to the numbers of women employed in various organisations, and their levels of pay. This has provided almost conclusive proof of the existence of the “glass ceiling” in many occupations, as well as of the unequal pay for the same or similar work in certain industries. This information has not always led to the immediate rectification of the injustices, but it has at least forced Society to face the facts and stop being in denial. You may think I have just ignored the issue of multiple factors influencing human behaviour. I acknowledge that there may be causes other than discrimination to explain some of the apparent inequalities, such as women choosing to avoid certain occupations, or disabilities genuinely preventing some people doing certain jobs. However, the statistical evidence has forced employers to accept that there is a case to answer, and that it must be answered properly, not with unsubstantiated excuses.

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