There are times to take risks and times to play it safe.
I write frequently about taking risks with your content. Experiment. Try something new. Put yourself out there. If it doesn’t work, do a quick post-mortem, figure out what happened, then try again before the fear monster takes over and chokes you.
A caveat is necessary, however: don’t do it if you are sick, drunk, exhausted, or otherwise not thinking rationally AND there is considerable potential for lasting public humiliation.
When you aren’t thinking straight and there are eyeballs and cameras aimed at you, that is a time when you can and should play it safe.
Case in point, Elizabeth May’s speech at the Parlimentary Press Gallery Dinner in mid-May.
She apologized, admitted that her attempts at edgy humour were poorly thought out, and attributed her behaviour to sleep deprivation.
Regardless what you think of her apology (which, according to media reports, seems to have been relatively well-received) or her excuses afterwards, it is an excellent case for not taking poorly-thought-out, spontaneous risks in a very public environment.
As much as risk-takers are praised and even lionized in current business pop culture, we do need to exercise a degree of discipline. Part of that discipline is being able to observe our own state with some objectivity and decide if we’re in a state to be intelligent with a risk. If you can feel that some of your pistons aren’t firing, if you know darn well that you haven’t slept in nearly a day, if a little part of your brain is thinking that just maybe you’ve had one sip of wine too many, put of taking that risk. This is doubly true if the risk involves a desire to act impulsively or spontaneously – triply true if it is taking place in a public forum. The circumstances mean that your chance of falling on your ass have gone up exponentially.
Risks can be good. Spontaneity can be good. Guarantee of success is not always needed, but exercising a degree of judgement is always advisable.
Remember: social media is fast and unforgiving, and the internet has a long memory. If you are going to say or do something radical, uncharacteristic, or risky when people are watching and Tweeting, at least make sure you are thinking straight while doing it.