Top tips for taking risks - how to courageously embrace the unknown

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Chamber Ambassador Vanessa O’Shea writes about the way she has learnt to embrace the unknown by continually pushing herself to try new things, fighting so that she does not become the 9 out of 10 people who do not fulfil their dreams.

Statistics say that 9 out of 10 people don’t fulfil their dreams. When we decide to pursue a dream, whether its running a marathon, learning to play an instrument, or starting your own business, it’s risky, because we are faced with not knowing how and if we are going to get there. I’ve listed below what I’ve learnt so far from taking a risk in (almost) each decade (I’m still learning) and how it’s helped me in starting a business.

Make some friends/allies

When I was 18, I went on holiday to the south of France, and ended getting a job as au-pair. . In my first week, I found myself at the park with a 2-year-old, with limited French and knowing no-one. I was suddenly overcome with loneliness, wondering whether I had done the right thing. However, it wasn’t long before a Dutch au pair came and introduced herself. When I joined Brighton Chamber of Commerce, I met my tribe; lots of other folk who were also starting their own businesses, taking risks, learning to speak another ‘language’. It’s a constant source of support.

Approach your vision with determination

I love symphony music and in my 30s’ I decided to learn the cello. Once I had reached a certain standard, I would turn up at orchestra alongside 12 year olds who were better than me. Was I frightened of failing? Yes. But I practiced and practiced and practiced; and I got to play symphonies. Setting myself goals and being disciplined in action, has enabled me to walk through the fear of failure, and sometimes given me the reason I needed to get out of bed in the morning.

Return to your passion
In my 40’s, I left my job and became an HR Consultant specialising in shaping culture. This followed years of seeing the impact of people being valued, and not valued, and culture being the key. Fearing that business will dry up, or not take off as I want it to is a real possibility. Regularly revisiting my passion energises me and helps me focus my decision-making.

Remember that the battle is usually in your head
A year ago, I turned 50, and took up running. Having not run since I was at school, I was terrified of looking silly, being laughed at, and holding everybody back. However, I have learnt something amazing. When your body is telling you that you can’t run any further you just tell your head to be quiet. When I sit down to write or design a new training programme, or plan a presentation, and it gets hard or I run out of ideas, I do the same, because I know my there is usually more.

Following our dreams would be so much easier if we didn’t have to walk through the fear that comes with it. However, I don’t think we would learn half as much about ourselves; we certainly wouldn’t experience the rewards. It involves courageously embracing the unknown. It’s worth it!

Thank you to Vanessa O’Shea for providing this blog. For more information visit:

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