Risk Forward - Embrace the unknown and unlock your hidden genius - Victoria Labalme
How much I liked this book? 7/10
Hey, it's a simple and visual book.
But don't let its simplicity misguide you, this can be the most powerful book for you.
It gave me that taste to trust my inspiration, my wants, my guts, my feelings. To let that desire drives me.
I kept following what interested me and lit me up even though I wasn’t sure where it would lead.
I started asking myself the questions so many of us do when our world spirals into crisis:
What now? What's next? How can I help?
Who would have thought…
- that I would be coaching thousands of people to express their ideas in their own unique way
- that I would be consulting CEOs on their communication strategy
- and who would have thought that I would fall in love with a man 20 years older and get married late in life?
I had simply taken the next step, not knowing where it would lead. I had followed what lit me up. And it lit other people up.
so often spoke about the importance of clarity, goals, and decisiveness, but in hallways or over lunch, many would lean in and whisper to me that they were unsure of their decisions, direction, or next steps. They felt wrong for not knowing, as if it was something to hide.
And yet I had discovered through my years in the arts that it is in this very gap between what is and what could be that we find our way; it is here that some of our best ideas are born.
the Fog of Not Knowing—a period of transition, when the path, the plan, or the project is not yet clear.
If you can meet this void without grasping for the most convenient way out, what you discover will be beyond your expectations and imagination.
Some of the most celebrated companies and creative endeavors didn’t start with complete clarity, a detailed plan, or a five-year goal. They started with an idea, a wisp, a glimmer of a thought, which the person then followed and explored, often through significant periods of self-doubt.
Clarity is not the place from which we begin but rather the place at which we ultimately arrive.
And it is a cycle we go through again and again—sometimes in the span of minutes, sometimes in the span of months, sometimes in the span of years.
The more original our path forward, the stronger the forces will be that rise up against it.
- You are not wrong for not knowing
- You don't always have to know what you're doing to create something extraordinary
- You figure it out by doing it
- Everyone goes through phases of not knowing. Most people are pretty good at hidding it.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.”
Though intended to be helpful, when you’re in the delicate phase of discovery, comments of this nature actually make things worse.
The pressure to do more, be more, and grow more continues, all based on the assumption that more is better.
You can't express your best ideas if you're busy keeping up with everyone else.
- Time. Rushing and worrying thinking we don't have enough.
- To conform. Shaving off parts of who we truly are to fit in the mold.
- To keep up. Running and doing, because everyone else is.
- To be great. Hyper extending ourselves for recognition or to prove something.
- Not to be great. Downplaying our success so as so not to make others jealous.
- To be happy. Feining happiness, which ultimately makes us feel hollow.
- To fulfill one's potential. Feeling that no matter what we do, it's never engouh.
Our day start to feel like:
SLEEP – WAKE UP – MEDITATE – CHECK MESSAGES – WAKE UP KIDS – CHECK POSTS, TEXTS, SOCIAL CHANNELS – GET UNDRESSED – GET IN THE SHOWER – GET DRESSED – GET COFFEE – GET KIDS READY FOR SCHOOL – CHECK MESSAGES AGAIN – GET TO WORK – DOWNLOAD FILES – UPLOAD FILES – CHECK SPREADSHEETS AND REPORTS – DEAL WITH DEADLINES – PRINT, SIGN, SCAN, SEND – EAT LUNCH IN FRONT OF COMPUTER – CHEW WHILE CHECKING E-MAIL – CHECK MESSAGES – ATTEND MEETINGS, MORE MEETINGS, MEETINGS ABOUT MEETINGS – HANDLE E-MAILS AND CONFERENCE CALLS – REVIEW REPORT – CONNECT WITH COLLEAGUE – CHECK E-MAIL – FINISH DOCUMENT – ATTEND ANOTHER MEETING – GET SOME EXERCISE – BICYCLE, TREADMILL, PILATES, PILATES – BICEPS, BICEPS, TRICEPS, ABS – CHECK BODY IN MIRROR – DO SOME YOGA TO CALM DOWN – BREATHE – HEAD HOME – PICK UP GROCERIES – UNPACK GROCERIES – HAVE DINNER WITH FAMILY – CHECK MESSAGES AND POSTS AGAIN – GET IN BED – WATCH A SHOW – CALL FRIEND – READ BOOK ON SPIRITUALITY – CHECK MESSAGES ONE MORE TIME – AND GO TO SLEEP
From the artist Marcel Marceau.
to be present, balance forward, heart open.
The position of “Risque Avant” resembled the sail of a boat, arched open with the wind.
It was a way of moving that made you feel almost like you were being pulled forward, and over time, I’ve come to think of this very much as a philosophy for life and work:
we can move forward,
a little off balance,
heading into the unknown.
Your inner current
Within each of us is an inner line of wisdom, an Inner Current that runs through everything we do.
It is in your cells and in your soul.
It is what motivates you from the inside out.
And whether you’re aware of it or not, this inner line, this invisible silent force, shows up in every area of your life.
And when you’re at your best, you’re most closely aligned with it.
the current in a river
the energy in an electrical wire
the life force rising through a tree
Even if you can’t identify or articulate your Inner Current, you know you’re connected to it when you’re feeling
- Pulled forward
- Fired up
- “Excitedly scared”
You know you’re disconnected from your Inner Current when you’re feeling:
The deserted island
One way to connect with your Inner Current is to remember what really matters . . . for you.
If you were on a deserted island dying and you knew you weren’t going to make it . . . that this was the end . . .
but there was a young person there with you—someone you cared about deeply . . .
and if—before you died—you could give that young person only one piece of advice about life and how they might best live theirs . . .
what would that one piece of advice be?
Whatever just came into your heart/mind/soul is exactly right for you and is the beginning of the essence of your Inner Current.
It’s the driving force behind your vision, your voice, and your values.
It is what you believe really matters . . . and what calls you to Risk Forward.
- “Be kind”
- “Don’t hold back”
- “Serve other people”
- “Give without expectation”
- “Live for something bigger than yourself”
- “Learn from everything and share with others”
- “Love what you do and do what you love”
- “Surround yourself with people who raise your game”
- “Always keep your enthusiasm and ambition”
- “Use your strengths to help others”
- “Remember that kindness and respect will open many doors”
- “Be true to yourself”
- “Work hard; play harder”
- “Give your best”
- “Learn to let go”
- “Make the world a better place”
- “Enjoy every day”
Your Deserted Island Answer has a profound influence on your day-to-day actions, even in the smallest of ways.
Think, for a moment, of your life like a movie. Within it there are different scenes.
A meal with others
In any given scene, you have an opportunity to express your Deserted Island Answer.
When you look back and reflect on the moments when you felt most “on course,” you will notice that your actions were in some way an expression of your Deserted Island Answer.
Staying closely aligned with this will help you Risk Forward; it will keep you connected to what matters most to you.
1. WHAT INTERESTS YOU NOW?
Remy explained that we’d start by each introducing ourselves, but he added this guideline. “Don’t tell us what you’ve done. Tell us what interests you now.”
One by one, we went around the room, saying, “I’m interested in . . .” For the next few weeks, that was all we knew of one another. Not each other’s credentials, not who someone had been before, but what interested them now, in this moment.
It was phenomenally freeing.
Remy didn’t want us relying on our ego or judging other people for their past. He gave us the opportunity to arrive in the class as newborns.
The fact is, our pasts can hold us back—not just our failures but our successes too.
2. WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP?
What do you love doing? What brings you joy?
- Helping people succeed?
- Standing up for a cause?
- Building a top-notch team?
- Being onstage . . . or on camera?
- Hosting events?
- Making complex concepts simple?
- Bringing a plan to life?
- Raising a family?
- Taking care of those in need?
- Writing music?
- Creating art?
3. WHAT STOPS TIME FOR YOU?
Bob Dylan said that the purpose of art is to stop time.
Certain activities can place us in a different temporal realm—editing a piece of text, hosting an event, writing code, coaching clients, analyzing data, seeing patients, developing a flow chart, leading a team, teaching a course, playing an instrument, cooking for friends, reading a book . . .
What activities cause hours to pass without your noticing?
4. WHAT DON’T YOU WANT?
The clarity that ensues from prior unpleasant experiences can propel us forward.
What won’t you put up with?
What situations are no longer acceptable to you?
Sometimes risking forward requires you to say “No”—no to what you’ve done before; no to what is presented or offered; no to what others think you should do; no to something you had thought you wanted for so long but now is no longer right.
The crimson star
FOLLOW INTEREST, CURIOSITY, EXCITEMENT
Trust that light that flickers across your soul
. . . even if it makes no sense to others
. . . even if people question or discourage you.
Your interest, curiosity, and excitement are not only “good enough” reasons to explore an idea.
They are THE reasons.
They are your Hidden Genius at work, and they carry more wisdom than you know.
It is not until we’ve had the courage to step into the unknown and head toward what I call the Crimson Star that we discover where we are next meant to go.
The next step
JUST TAKE THE NEXT STEP
YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO KNOW
WHERE IT’S GOING
HOW IT WILL TURN OUT
WHAT YOU’LL USE IT FOR
WHY YOU’RE EVEN DOING IT
. . . EXCEPT THAT IT SEEMS INTERESTING OR FUN.
“Don’t limit yourself to your imagination, because the world will bring you more than you can possibly imagine.”
The small steps we take are often in service of something far greater than we may recognize at the time.
Your choice may make no sense to others and even at times to yourself.
But there’s a greater wisdom at work that has its own internal logic.
You may not understand why you’re compelled to make a certain decision—and you can’t always explain it—but when your Inner Current is buried, it shows up as intuition.
When your inner current is burried, it shows up as intuition.
I wish we had a sonogram for our souls.
EARLY IDEAS OFTEN LOOK ODD
like a seed just starting to germinate.
In the early days above ground, sprouts are at their most vulnerable.
- Why are you doing this?
- Who are you to do this?
- Is that the best use of your time?
- Are you sure it’s going to work?
- How exactly will that make money?
- I don’t get it. Why would someone be interested?
What's in you is something we have never seen before.
Who are others to say what we might or might not become?
Our voices and our visions matter.
Ideas arrive in your mind for a reason. They are gifts.
“Trust the idea that can lead to the idea.”
Your ideas and insights matter. Trust them.
The poems were not good: confusing.
“Great. So, do you know who wrote these poems?”
“Actually, these are the early poems of Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson . . .”
In an instant we were filled with optimism for our own potential.
Greatness rarely begins great.
I had no clarity on the direction.
I was overwhelmed by all the options.
On three-by-five colored index cards, he had me write down each bit, story, or idea that was floating around in my mind—one idea per card. I did this over the course of a few days. Then we met. He took the collection of cards and hid them behind his back, shuffling the deck. One by one he flashed each card at me and studied my response.
"This one ?" He asked. I squished up my face. He set it to the side.
"This one?". I bearned. He put it in a different area.
"This one?". My chest sunk. He put that card with the first.
"This one?". I tiled my head sideways, shrugging my shoulders. He put that card in a third zone.
We had three piles: Definite, Maybe, No.
We narrowed down From 50 ideas to 30.
We repeated the process, reducing the deck and we began to see patterns.
Some ideas naturally grouped. An internal logic started to make itself known.
Arranging, regrouping, experimenting, a show started to emerge.
Because I risked forward from a place of not knowing, without a script or a map, what arrived was far beyond anything I could have imagined or planned from the start.
Creativity doesn’t happen in a line. The creative process is—by its very nature—one that happens out of order.
“Victoria—it’s because you’re an artist that we hired you. You bring a perspective we don’t get anywhere else.”
Don't hide, be authentic.
we sometimes try to hide parts of who we really are.
In many cases, it’s to our benefit to do the exact opposite.
If you’re new to a field, make that your advantage. “I bring a fresh perspective.”
rather than try to “fix” herself to fit into a mold, she featured who she was and is. Out of rejection, she rose to new heights and created “Pretty BIG Movement”—a professional international dance company that features full-figured women.
As her opening, she stepped onstage, looked out at the audience of thousands, and said, “I know what you’re thinking.” She clicked to her first slide. There, in huge letters, was the acronym “WTF?”
The audience burst out laughing. They knew that she knew they were upset. In acknowledging what they were feeling, she began to rebuild trust and rapport.
Instead of hidding an issue, risk forward and feature it.
The prism effect
When we don’t see a reflection in the outside world of what we find within ourselves, the temptation is to hide parts of who we really are in order to fit into a mold.
But if you think of the metaphor of light shining through a prism, the prism reveals that white light is actually comprised of a full range of colors fused together.
When you hide parts of who you are, you diminish your power. Conversely, when you embrace your “full spectrum”—your personality, your past, your passions, and your perspective—your strength increases.
What's a part of you that you keep hidden?
Odd pairing are great. Their combination is what makes you unique.
The financial advisor who loves his Ducati motorcycle and parks it inside his office. When prospects arrive, they immediately get a glimpse into his style and personality. He sets himself apart from the stereotypical advisor before the meeting even begins.
The strategic planning professor who loves comedy and starts each seminar with a comedic Top 10 list. Students rush to arrive on time so as not to miss the opening of his class.
When he finished, Bill revealed that he’d never told that story to anyone, not even his wife.
Bill’s willingness to be more open allows them to connect on a whole new level.
Bill credits that moment onstage as the breakthrough that led to his company’s rapid growth.
Creative acts are not acts of knowing. They are acts of discovery.
when you are breaking new ground, there is no map.
when a lens has not yet fully found its focus.
It’s called a “Circle of Confusion.”
Our lives and projects are similar.
We want someone else to make the decisions. We want them to tell us what to do.
We assume that because we’re not yet clear, we never will be. Clarity is a process.
This is the danger of creativity by concensus: An original vision gets adjusted by everyone's vote until it no longer represents anything of true daring and distinction.
"I’d rather follow my own instincts and fail than follow someone else’s instincts and succeed."
Whenever advice arrives in your orbit—solicited or not—you must filter it carefully.
How does it feel?
Who is giving the advice?
Is it in line with where you think you want to go?
Be more you
Because I hadn’t had time to think about what a “sexy restaurant hostess” would sound like, I’d acted from the inside out, from a pure impulse within.
The delivery had been unpredictable. It surprised them. And it worked.
I had tried to become what I thought they wanted me to be.
Risking forward comes from within.
Honor your instincts
Don't just do something
sometime standing still is preferable.
There’s a pervasive belief that decisiveness is inherently good and that indecisiveness is a negative trait—a character flaw.
To appear clearheaded and decisive, I said, “Okay. Yes, let’s do it.” That one “yes” led to months of a misguided use of my time, stress, lost money, and significant opportunity costs.
I could have simply said, “I need another few days. It’s too important a decision to rush.”
Just because it appears or others are saying so, doesn't mean it is.
Only you know the landscape of your soul.
THE MYTH OF PURPOSE
But you don’t need to find your purpose.
Your “purpose” is already in you.
Finding the words to describe it may take some time, but if you keep following what pulls you forward and lights you up, you’ll be on the right track.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO NAME YOUR PURPOSE TO BE LIVING YOUR PURPOSE.
THE MYTH OF GOALS
Unless your goals are aligned with your Inner Current, they will take you Way Off Course.
THE MYTH OF FOCUS
Some people express themselves in one main direction. Others express themselves in a variety of ways.
THE MYTH OF FOLLOWERS
NUMBERS DO NOT EQUATE WITH VALUE.
THE MYTH OF SPEED
“Donnn’t rush. Trust yourself, your own rhythm, your own internal timing.”
Risking forward is not about speed. It’s about having the courage to respect your own rhythm, even when the whole cry of voices is telling you something else.
We must honor our own internal clocks . . .
- You won't make it
- Others are ahead
- What were you thinking?
- You messed up
- It's not going to work
- You should have started sooner
- How will you catch up?
- It's not worth it
- What's the point?
- You'll never get it right
- You don't have what it takes
- Stay present
- Be gentle with yourself
- Trust your pace
- Everyone's on their own clock
- You're doing great
- Honor your instincts
- You'll figure it out
- It's Ok to pause
- You've got this
- You have what it takes
- Trust yourself
“You can take a break, but you can’t quit.”
you can see that the detour could be your true path.
“I’m not who I thought I was back then.”
A detour is only a detour if you see it as a detour.
At times the path may look daunting,
It’s amazing how we cackle with glee when it’s an amusement park ride. We love the surprise and the unexpected turns; we even pay money for the experience.
Everyone is dealing with their own pressures, conflicts, and concerns.
So be kind
—to them, to yourself—because no one has it all together all the time.
Your noble intent
“What is the nobility behind your work?”
Your hidden legacy
You might look around to see others who have done more, made more, built more, or become more recognized.
But you can’t measure legacy.
In every area of this earth, people are setting legacies in motion without even realizing it.
They are inspiring a student, leading a group, raising a child, designing a campaign, supporting a friend, teaching a course, running an experiment, helping their team, coaching a client, or creating new work . . .
we can follow what lights us up; express our insights; speak our truth; and stand for what is right.
Your life's work
"I never had a Five-Year Plan. I always just did what was next as best I could.
Every Friday, as my family gathers in the evening at our home, in the dying light of the day, I go around the house and find what I can—a pine bough, a twig, some flowers. And with that, I make a bouquet."
So trust your Inner Current,
your insights and ideas,
and the Crimson Star . . .
even if you’re not sure where it all will lead.
The courage to head into the unknown
is the starting point
of all great art and science,
great entrepreneurship and enterprise
. . . and great lives.
for additional content