We asked some of the brightest folks in the community to open up to us about the most important lesson their business or career has taught them. We’ve highlighted some of those responses below.

Blaire Michael | Music Producer, Mix Engineer, & Artist

I think of risk in terms of growth. For me, it has been this crucial element to self-actualization. I really wouldn’t be where I am today, talking to you about my work as a music producer, had I not taken substantial risks and moved through all the fears that come with it. In a lot of ways, up until I started pursuing a career as a music producer and audio engineer, I had chosen a challenging, but nonetheless safe route in my career. I was on a very predictable path in academia. I graduated college, went for my Masters, taught at the University, got my doctorate, and started doing post-doctoral research. It was a series of well-worn steps that I followed by the book and led me to become a doctor. From there, I would ascend another set of steps that would lead me to becoming a professor at a University. I didn’t have much risk in my life – I was just working really hard and following the track laid out for me. Risk felt incredibly scary, especially when I first began to realize that, actually, I found immeasurable joy in being a creative, which is much less predictable. Read more>>

Salina Nèou | Celebrity Nail Artist

Life is all about taking risks, and my career is no different. I literally packed up my car and drove across country with no connections or help. Starting from scratch in all aspects from clients, friends, and a new big city for me to learn all on my own. That one single decision has allowed me to work with some of the biggest names in Hollywood and introduced me to true friendships that will last a lifetime. Get out of your comfort zone! Nothing is guaranteed, but sometimes things just work out in your favor. Read more>>

Blazing Jane | Alternative Rock Band

Ken Gill (Lead Guitarist): Over the years I slowly started to listen to my own inner voice regarding what to play. To trust the melodies that came out of me naturally – it was ok to play it pretty, or rough and nasty, etc. Lissa Dee (Lead Singer): Taking risks was uncomfortable for me when I first started writing, recording and especially when playing with other musicians. As I grew into myself as an artist, I realized getting comfortable being uncomfortable and taking risks, is the best way to learn, and connect with others in music and in life. Read more>>

Tashara Gavin-Moorehead | Dance Artist, Choreographer & Educator

Typically I think of risk as a 50/50 percent chance. Either it will happen or it won’t. I love thinking about risk as a “what is the worst that could happen?” Risk is a part of life and how we inevitably make change in our lives. I believe you must be willing to to take chances and make mistakes in order to understand all the options available to you. Going for things that seem unreachable, helps me to stretch myself to the edges of my perceived limitations. Taking huge risks has shaped my career and life were I have had the wildest adventures and experiences. I have lived in five major cities in America, and danced with some of the most prominent Black dance companies all because I took risks, and took leaps of faith. Risks make my life full of colorful, joyful experiences that I will cherish forever. Read more>>

Gabriel Valentin | Writer and Creator of Digital Lizards of Doom

I believe long term risks and short term risks are polar opposites. If the only thing standing in my way is a short term risk, then I don’t pay any attention to it. Read more>>

Alexandra Lister | Ballet Dancer & Graduate Student

Risk is a topic that has truly shaped how my life is today. Though risk may seem scary, it is a very important factor in attaining your goals, hopes, desires, and dreams. I committed to a plentiful of risks after graduating undergraduate college. I risked moving to a new place across the country. I moved to San Diego to pursue a career in dance with the San Diego Ballet. With the onset of the pandemic, I found my career in dance laid off. It is then I decided to take a risk and apply for Graduate school. I now find myself enthralled with graduate school as a Master’s student in marketing. As I continue on life’s adventure, I find that risk isn’t so scary after all. Risk is the driving factor in all my pursuits whether it be dance, marketing, health, wellness, and more. Read more>>

Dani Scott | Film Maker and Actress

I love taking risks! Smart risks. I love bungee jumping, sky diving, and white water rafting. I have traveled all over the world by myself with nothing but a backpack and the desire for adventure! I just know what country I’m going to and know when I have to be back to the airport. No itinerary. Just letting it all happen, come what may. I have met so many people, some good and some bad, seen things I never would have seen if I was catering my life to other people or staying on the beaten path, and pushed myself within my comfort zone. And I’ve taken that idea of knowing what I want but having a willingness to let it happen without resistance has helped my professional life in film. Film is nothing but risks, but the rewards are so wonderful when those risks pay off. I think some people view risks as black and white. You are either a risk taker who puts everything on the line or you never take chances and sit on the safe side lines. Like most things in life, there is a big grey area. And the key to that grey area lies in common sense and our own gut and intuition. Read more>>

William Nericcio | Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies Program Director, Publisher, and Artist

I am terrified but I am going to risk it” and from there one might imagine that you stay put with that. Making ONE risk. But no, the next morning, take another big risk, another long shot gambit. That’s what I did I ended up in the Ivy League, getting a Ph.D., and altering the dynamics of my future forever. My late great friend Leon Lanzbom, a former student who became my best friend and who was the best guitarist I have ever seen save for Eddie Van Halen and Eric Clapton, was Jewish. He shared this proverb with me, something along the lines of: “Always shoot for the stars … that way if you fail, you’ll at least land on the roof; but if you aim for the roof, you will likely stay in the dirt, so shoot for the stars.” I probably mangled it, but you get the gist (sorry Leon!). I always remember that–especially since he passed early at 54 of heart failure. Go for it: the stars, today; tomorrow; and the next. Read more>>

Elizabeth Epstein | Physician, Cookbook Author, Yoga & Fitness Instructor

I think taking risks is essential to innovation and contribution. Prior to going to medical school, multiple people discouraged me because of how difficult the path to becoming a physician can be. While I was troubled by their foreboding words, I persisted nevertheless and now find being a physician to be the most incredible, rewarding, and intellectually stimulating job I could ever imagine. To me, it’s not just a dream job, but a life mission. Similarly, prior to writing my cookbook, another cookbook author told I would never have enough time to write the book during medical school and that, what’s more, the market for cookbooks is already saturated. But again, I persisted, and in fact I did write the book over four years in medical school and was ultimately able to publish it and make an impact on my readers’ lives. Despite that there are many cookbooks on the market, I was able to create something unique, and I’ve had readers tell me that the book “changed their life by showing them they could cook delicious, healthy meals at home–even after a long work day.” Read more>>

Tina Evangelou | Woodworker By Day, Law Enforcement By Night

I realize I may be one of the exceptions here because though i have undoubtedly found my passion, I am unwilling to take the risk of quitting my steady government job to pursue my passion full time. Believe me, I have spent hours and hours pondering the idea and crunching the numbers over the last few years. I even put myself on the 10 year plan to pay off my property and convert the back half of my house into a rental so I could financially quit my job and pursue woodworking full time. I could do it. Financially, I would survive. With my house paid off, I could make a modest living with my woodworking to pay the rest of my bills, and who knows, maybe eventually even make good money. I’m sure there would be some great benefits and freedoms that I would love. I’m sure I would convince myself that it was the “best decision I ever made,” as you hear many entrepreneurs say about quitting their 9 to 5 in pursuit of their passion career. In the end, I decided that my joy and inspiration for woodwork would change drastically if I depended on it financially. Read more>>

Jennifer Flynn | Meditation Therapy and Healing. Workshop Facilitator For Empowerment and Play

This question fascinates me as my sense of risk has evolved over time. My choice in taking a radical departures from my former career in executive search to starting a meditation therapy and healing business seemed incredibly risky to those in my life, but did not feel that way to me. It was a decision fueled by an internal compass. I knew it was time. I knew this is what I wanted to do. I had no doubt about making the switch. When put in that light, the decision doesn’t feel at all risky. And yet, from the outside, it looks like a big risk or a leaping of a chasm. From an outside world perspective, it was a financial risk, stability risk, and an emotional risk. Yet, inside there was no doubt. It makes me curious to think about the relationship between doubt and risk. Read more>>