At some point in your career, if it hasn’t happened already, you’re going to find yourself considering taking a huge, nerve-racking risk. I’m talking about the type of life-altering change that can freeze you with fear, locking you into an endless, internal debate over everything that could go right or wrong. It could be quitting your day job to focus on a side hustle, starting a new business, taking on a difficult project to potentially get a promotion, or just doing something completely out of the realm of your comfort zone. And while you consider taking the leap, you may think to yourself—is it worth it?
It’s a good, smart question to ask yourself. As scary as taking a risk is, I’m here to tell you that if it’s in support of something you care about deeply and are considering seriously, it’s more than likely worth it. I learned firsthand—from my experience starting and growing a billion-dollar company—that success often requires getting comfortable with risk. For my business to succeed, I knew I had to commit every ounce of my being to it, which meant no time for maintaining a safety net. And so I quit a stable, secure job in finance to spend my days working nonstop out of a tiny, cramped dorm room.
I had few resources beyond myself. I worked night and day, I battled endless, soul-crushing paper jams, the only “assistant” I could afford yakked up hairballs all over the office (yes, she was my cat), I ate ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I once even found myself scrounging for coins that had been tossed out in our trash bin. It wasn’t always pretty, and success was far from a sure thing. Sure, I was energized by passion and fully believed in myself, but I still knew betting on myself didn’t guarantee a return—in business, as in life, there are always things beyond your control.
But what I did know was that I would never succeed the way I wanted to if I didn’t take a chance and stake out on my own. I also knew that I had everything I needed to succeed: business know-how, industry experience, and hustle. Ultimately, my risk paid off—not only did we make it out of that dorm room, but we flourished, opening offices in over 100 cities around the world.
But how do you know when a risk is actually worth it? And what can you do to shift the odds in your favor?
Tap into your passion.
Whether a risk is one worth taking comes down to what it’s for. I call this your “why.” Ask yourself, what do I want out of this? How much do I really want it? Is it something I can live without? Or is it fundamental to who I am and the future I envision for myself?
As big of a risk quitting that secure finance job was on paper, the fact is, I knew I couldn’t stay there. I was miserable, it wasn’t the right place for me, and equity arbitrage wasn’t something I was particularly passionate about. On the other hand, my independence, my ability to create the kind of company I wanted, my desire to do work that felt meaningful, and my commitment to do the absolute best by my clients were all things I could not live without.
To succeed at anything, you have to work your tail off. And in my experience, the best fuel for hard work is passion. When you genuinely care about what you’re working for, when you’re driven toward a goal that energizes and inspires you, it’s a whole lot easier to work harder and longer, and you’re therefore far more likely to succeed. In my case, my passion was languages, connecting people, and helping other businesses accomplish their goals. That passion kept me going through all the late nights, setbacks, challenges, and tough times. Your “why” is critical to your success, so make sure it’s a good one.
Work harder, longer, and smarter than your competition.
You’d be amazed how far sheer, old-fashioned, hard work and elbow grease can take you. No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, the single most important factor—the key to whether you succeed or fail—is the actions you take. It’s really that simple. If you want to improve your chances of success, you need to work harder, longer, and smarter than everyone else.
Finding your passion and shaping it into a dream is just the beginning. Coming up with the idea isn’t the tough part—it’s acting on that idea, consistently grinding away to make it a reality. For me, that meant making hundreds of cold calls a day, signing thousands of pitch letters, and working day in and out, even through holidays and weekends. Those grueling, tedious tasks are what built my business and what enabled our success. So if you’re considering a risk, make sure you’re ready to put in the work to make it worth it.
Do the groundwork first.
There is a world of difference between taking a smart, calculated risk and being reckless. Before you take a leap of faith, you need to work on your vertical, do some practice jumps, and look where you’re leaping.
The truth is, a part of me had always known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I had been making moves to build my dream company long before I put in my two weeks’ notice. I grew up all over the world, and through that, I discovered a real knack and love for different languages and cultures early in life. Connecting with people from entirely different walks of life felt deeply important and meaningful to me. And so I pursued and cultivated that passion, growing, feeding, and refining it over the years. I majored in modern languages in college, I sought the mentorship of my language professors, I studied and worked abroad in different countries, and I got a job at a leading translation firm. Those experiences helped further shape my dream—they showed me exactly what was missing in the industry, inspiring and honing my idea to start my own comprehensive translation service company. And then I went to business school to learn everything I possibly could about being an entrepreneur.
I did all of this before quitting my job and starting my own business. When it came time to take the leap of faith needed to launch my company, I wanted to be ready. I wanted to make sure I had done everything in my power to set myself up for success. All of that prepwork greatly mitigated the risk I was taking on. So I urge you to make sure you’ve laid the groundwork before building upwards.
Launching a business, making a big career shift, taking on a big project, or giving up a day job so you can commit all of your time and energy to your own venture all carry risk. The question you have to ask yourself is whether that risk is greater than the alternative. In my case, I determined that the risk of staying put in a job I hated was far greater than the risk of starting my own business. When you do that math for yourself, it becomes very clear whether a risk is one worth taking.