Taking risks and achieving your goal

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s probably a safe bet that successful people will credit their success to the risks they took in their careers. Now, some may have taken unconventional approaches with their risk taking by skirting laws, ethics and mores. Other folks may have played it safe with a conventional approach that never raised undo attention.

These are two very divergent approaches, but there’s some commonality in the risks successful people took. They took calculated risks:
• They looked at where they are
• They looked at their goal, and
• Determined what they needed to do to achieve success.

This became apparent while recently watching television. I generally do not like to watch “reality” television. The reality of my life is enough for me. Recently, however, “Chopped All-Stars” on the Food Network grabbed my attention. The premise of the show was to pit celebrity and up-and-coming chefs against each other. Each round featured making an appetizer, main course and dessert from a wildly divergent list of mandatory ingredients selected for each course (one dessert challenge required using garbanzo beans!) The losing chef from each round was out. The “Chopped All-Star” earned $50,000 for the charity of the all-star’s choosing.

One chef, Nate Appleman, was interesting to watch because he found success in the risks he took in his cooking. He took unconventional

"Chopped All-Star" Nate Appleman (photo courtesy of Food Network)

approaches to his cooking and use of ingredients. Instead of playing it safe, Nate set his creativity free and pushed culinary boundaries. His risk taking, however, was never so much that he couldn’t recover. There were times the judges questioned a particular taste of Nate’s dish, but they always seem to praise his courage to try something new.

A couple of the chefs equally wanted to win for their particular charities but took unconventional approaches. One chef took an unconventional — and illegal — risk by bringing in cocoa. Contestants could not bring in outside ingredients. They could only use the mandatory ingredients or whatever the pantry held. The judges discovered the chocolate taste. They chopped him.

Another chef played it safe. A dessert challenge included granola bars as a mandatory ingredient. She put jazzed-up peanut butter on the bars. The judges loved the dessert. It seemed certain she was going to win that round and go on to the all-star competition. Surprisingly, she lost. The judges faulted her for taking the safe route. It was good, they said, but she didn’t show the creativity they expected from a chef of her caliber. Her failure was accepting the granola bar as it was. She didn’t try to make it her own. The judges chopped her.

Nate also stayed focused on why he was in the competition. It wasn’t for his ego but for something bigger. He competed for his son who suffers from Kawasaki disease. This rare disease causes inflammation of children’s blood vessels. Nate wanted to win the $50,000 to help fund research.

Ultimately, Nate’s calculated risks bore fruit with his victory. Nate knew where he was (“Chopped” competitor) and where he wanted to be (“Chopped All-Star” champion). He examined what he had to work with (mandatory ingredients and pantry), and took calculated, and ethical and legal risks (his creative cooking style) to achieve his goal ($50,000 for the Kawasaki Foundation). Nate fulfilled his dream, which embodies Goethe’s quote.

What about you? What goal do you have and are you taking the calculated ethical risks to achieve it?


One thought on “Taking risks and achieving your goal

  1. I just saw this series of wins by Nate recently on re-run and had pretty much the same reaction. I was drawn in, and then transfixed. I have studied sports and performance psychology as an amateur (my kids were elite athletes) and this fellow represented to me the embodiment of intensity,immediacy and immersion… of creativity under pressure, of having a will to win. I contact the Food Channel the next day and, though it took a few days, I finally figured out where he was, asking for an address so I could write a note and send a check to the KD Foundation. He blew me away when he called this afternoon. This is a gracious human being; he won my commitment to join him in the challenge to raise more money.

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