A great dread fell on him, as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that he had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken. An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo’s side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.
“I will take the Ring,” [Frodo] said, “though I do not know the way.”
This is the turning point of Act One in J.R. Tolkien’s classic book, The Lord Of The Rings. Until this moment, Frodo is depicted as young, inexperienced and having limited ambitions.
Frodo is a tiny hobbit who lacks any relevant experience to accept a burden of such consequence. He stands among a group of hardened warriors, magicians and kings who can’t agree on the next course of action.
This moment, captured here in the film, is deeply stirring for readers and movie-goers. We relate with Frodo’s hesitation, and we are inspired by his willingness to act.
How many times have we been presented with an opportunity and hesitated to raise our hand? To this point in the story, we only see a glimpse of the evil that awaits Frodo on his journey.
One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep, and the Great Eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust, the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly.
We know that our protagonist is signing up for a brutal journey. Frodo is not ready and will suffer greatly. His odds of success are incredibly low.
What Are You Proud Of That Involved No Risk?
Think about the moments in your life that you are most proud of. Reverse engineer those accomplishments. You will discover a moment when you needed to make a decision.
Every milestone started with a risk. If you are proud of something, the journey must have been difficult. If it was simple, what are you proud of? Gratification is a function of risk and effort.
Great risks require great effort. But the payoff is incredibly sweet. We are roused to emotion when we understand that an accomplishment required us to become a better version of ourselves along the journey.
Study enough successful startup founders and you will find a common theme. They have a higher tolerance for risk than most people. Betting on yourself requires a stubborn refusal to play it safe.
Sarah Blakely founded Spanx because she liked the firmness of pantyhose but hated how they looked in high heels. She left a successful corporate career to sell “leg-less pantyhose” out of her apartment.
Now that Spanx is a $1B+ company, this seems like a common-sense idea. At the time, how many of her friends were whispering that she was nuts? Sarah was lucky to have a family that encouraged failure at a young age.
My dad encouraged us to fail growing up. He would ask us what we failed at that week. If we didn't have something, he would be disappointed. It changed my mindset at an early age that failure is not the outcome - failure is not trying.
The pride you feel is more about the decision to take the risk than the accomplishment itself.
What's The Worst That Can Happen?
Frodo was wise not to ask himself this question. The worst that can happen in Mordor will take your imagination to some dark places.
But what about the rest of us? Are we facing orcs, goblins, trolls and evil magic? Of course not.
This doesn't stop our imagination from conjuring up the darkest possible scenario. It is a survival instinct deeply engrained in our subconscious.
Our ancestors survived because they played it safer than their peers. Before walking into a dark cave, they envisioned a family of bears waiting to tear them apart.
The same cruel fate does not await those who apply for a promotion. Worst case, you don't get the job. I suppose you could get the job and fail, but what comes after that?
It will force you to change, grow, find mentors and try new things. With the right mindset and hard work, you overcome early stumbles and succeed.
Frodo not only accepts the challenge, but he also drops his ego and admits that he doesn't know how to get there. Inspired by his bravery, mentors step up and agree to help him along the way.
Standing with nine as a fellowship, Frodo's quest seems less daunting than had he walked it alone. When you take a risk and admit that you need help, people will help you.
I find that humility attracts mentors. If someone shows vulnerability, those who can help are more willing to share their experience and knowledge.
The worst case is that you took a shot, learned a great deal about yourself and came out as a better version of yourself. The more likely scenario involves success, especially if you work for a company with good leadership.
Fortune Favors The Bold
Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat is a Latin proverb loosely translated as "fortune favors the bold."
Fortuna is the Greek Goddess of luck, fate and fortune. The Greeks often depicted Fortuna as favoring those who took massive risks.
Bold means different things to people at different times in their lives.
You don't have to sell everything, take out debt and start a business to be bold.
- It can start with taking on a project you would typically shy away from in your office.
- If you are unhappy in your job, stop feeling bad for yourself and find a better company.
- Ask for an increase in responsibility at your office.
- Call a potential customer who seems out of your league.
- Sign up for a Crossfit gym for one month to see if you like it.
Comfort is a trap. When we get comfortable in our work and relationships, we stop growing. There is nothing to celebrate in comfort.
Take a risk. Carry the ring.
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