The Risk Muscle

Al Gustafson, founder of the Career Transitions Center of Chicago, gave a talk at the center this May about transitions and change. The idea that has stayed with me is that of the risk muscle–and that it, like any muscle, atrophies if unused. (I believe Roger Von Oech deserves credit for the phrasing.)

It occurred to me that my risk muscle might perhaps be weaker than my left tricep, which is saying quite a lot. Despite the wild notion that first ran through my head of selling all earthly possessions and traveling through the Andes via llama (with cat riding in a pack), the truth is that my natural inclination, with my career in transition, is to cling to everything else that much harder. Especially the good, safe things. Family. Friends. Home. Sunday night HBO series.

Meanwhile, my risks have been consisting of networking meetings, freelance pitches and job interviews. And I’ve been feeling out of practice and exhausted. So I decided to work on my risk muscle some more.

I’ve started with my literal muscles. After five-plus years of Modern Dance II on Thursdays at Old Town School of Folk Music, class is as much old home night as it is exercise. We crack up when our knees crack during grand pliés, and we give our teacher more grief than anyone who isn’t a friend would accept. Shaking up my workout was in order, and so I’ve been testing yoga and zumba classes around town.

I’m finding new muscles I didn’t know existed, and these small steps outside my comfort zone are helping me remember how to take bigger risks. South America, here I come. Just a visit, though. My cat would hate the llama.

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