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A Personal Risk Reward Story

Last time, in our post titled “Is Risk too Risky?” we explored risk, the nature of risk, and how it is apart of everyday life. We can try to avoid it, but risk is ultimately present in everything we do.

In hopes of further exploring this topic, I’m going to give a chapter out of my life where I had to consider a risky set of options to see if I could get a higher reward.

My personal risk/reward story

When I first entered the work force, I made some risky decisions that worked out quite well. I’ll skip a couple of them and get to one of the more risky ones. I was working at a national electronics retailer and I hated my job.

I loathed waking up everyday, putting on my uncomfortable uniform, rushing to the ugly building and being yelled at by a bunch of unsatisfied customers.

I didn’t blame the customers, I knew how the company worked behind the scenes, and the customers certainly didn’t come first. I helped all I could, but ultimately, I had to put the customer on the back burner so I could go make money off of the next unassuming person walking in the door. One day, I woke up and knew something had to change.

A few weeks later I got a call from a good friend who worked at a great company, and he got me an interview — that day. I was scheduled for work at 9 AM and he is calling me at 8 AM letting me know I have an interview. What were my options?

1. Go to work and miss the opportunity.
2. See if I could re-schedule the interview.
3. See if someone could fill in for me at work.
4. Do a no call/no-show and hope for the best.
5. Call in sick and hope for the best.

Which Option to Choose?

To understand my decision-making process you need to know what my mental state was, and who I am at my core. I’m a pretty safe person, but I wasn’t about to give up this opportunity to leave a job I hated. Option 1 was out. I was at such a low point at this job, that the opportunity was burning a hole in my pocket, so to speak. Re-scheduling wasn’t in the cards, option 2 was out.

I didn’t have phone numbers for any co-workers. It was a turbulent time at the company and people were either being laid off, or quitting. You didn’t know who the store manager was each day you walked in, option 3 was out. Because of the turbulence at the company/store, I probably could have done option 4 and been fine, but at the same time, the company had nothing to lose by firing me; so, option 4 was out.

This left me with option 5; I called out sick and hoped for the best. The company wasn’t very tolerant of people who called in sick. We were lowly hourly wage workers – a dime a dozen. They didn’t like paying people for being sick. I had showed up a couple of times terribly sick just so I didn’t risk losing my job. I rolled the dice, called in sick, and got dressed for the interview.

Long story short, the interview went well, and I got the job.

What was my risk/reward?

My risk was my current job and stability. If I lost my job, I would have been in terrible condition as I didn’t have an emergency savings but I did have rent, car insurance, car payments, cell phone bills, and plenty of other bills that I had to contend with. The reward was getting a job that paid more, and probably provided more job satisfaction.

Usually, that risk/reward tradeoff wouldn’t have been enough for me to do what I did, but the electronics retailer had pushed me to the brink. I was tired of the terrible work environment, and never being able to help the customers. The fact that the company was in such terrible shape helped decrease the risk, as losing my job was actually a constant part of my reality. If I hadn’t taken the risk, I still could have lost my job!

This story helps to highlight the complexity involved in risk/reward. It isn’t a 2 dimensional picture by any means. When you toss in your family’s stability, a company that is doing badly, your job satisfaction, and the bills you have to pay; decisions become extremely difficult, and the depth is hard to fathom.

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