Habits of Highly Successful Freshmen: Risk-taking

By reading this article, you've at least flirted with the above habit. You have moved into the dorms among hundreds of people you don't know. You've enrolled in classes unlike any you've taken before. You've reduced communication with family to phone calls and weekend visits. And you've separated yourself from a social life 18 years in the making. There are plenty of jobs and community colleges that might have saved you the trouble, but you chose the monumental risk of living away at school.

Why have you taken such a leap of faith? There are likely great deals of differences between each freshman's motivations. But at the core, a desire to grow and an acceptance of change leads to every risk we take. Every bird in the sky had to first jump out of its nest. Every successful student at Geneseo had to first leave life as they knew it. Now that you're here, with all of the opportunities for growth spread before you, will you let that spirit of risk-taking carry you through the next four years? Or, will you rebuild a new comfort zone and wait within it for someone to deliver your next cap and gown?

Many people stay within their comfort zones, and for good reason. If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten. And as long as you're comfortable with that, it's a safe strategy to stay on the same course. Unfortunately, there is a fine line between self-protection and self-limitation. The acceptance of risks may expose you to a few small bumps in the road. But the refusal to take risks is the refusal to build a better life.

The balance between security and success is different for everyone. It's too hasty to claim that sitting in solitude for a few hours is a mark of someone going nowhere. If relaxing in front of the television with the door closed recharges your battery, by all means do so. The key is not being seduced into any comfort zone to the extent that you can't go beyond it. Instead, use it as an athlete would use a good night of sleep or a healthy breakfast to excel in an event.

You also have to factor in a degree of common sense, before your entire life becomes one big hazard. There are universally good and bad risks. A good risk is going up to a girl you find cute even though you don't know what to say. A bad risk is picking a fight with that girl's bodybuilder boyfriend to impress her. A good risk is checking out a few clubs on campus to see what strikes your interest. A bad risk is running for an executive position in each of those clubs.

All things considered, if the possible payoff seems worth the risk, and the opportunity cost is nothing worse than discomfort, you truly have nothing to lose. The thought of venturing into uncharted territory may make your stomach churn, but imagine if such minor and temporary discomfort had deterred Columbus, the Wright brothers or The Beatles. You may or may not have such a profound impact on the world by going to an informational meeting. But such adventures are likely to impact your daily life.

You've already let your ambition pull you from your comfort zone of home to a dorm room of Geneseo. Let it pull you just a bit further, just enough to see what else you are capable of. When uncertainty arises, as it has for every great achiever, check it with your common sense. If you can be riveted by the best case scenario and you can live with the worst, drive through the doubt as you would drive through the fog. "Take the first step in faith," as Einstein said. "You don't need to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step."

Four years from now, every experience you have had at Geneseo will have shaped your life, your relationships and your future. If you are unwilling to take a few risks, you'll leave with few experiences. If you push yourself to your edge and lean just beyond it in everything you do, you'll leave with few regrets.