By Rigel Broeren '21
My Mom always tells me that I never try new things, or that I stay in my bubble, and that I reject most of the opportunities that she suggests. That’s pretty ironic considering I’m about to give a speech about taking risks and undergoing new experiences. And although I admit that some of that statement is true, not all of it is. I’m sure you’ve all heard your parents or someone tell you that you need to try new things whether it be a summer camp, class in school, or new sport. If you’re anything like me, your answer to most of their proposals is going to be no. Although most of us as high schoolers are ever changing, we all have our own identities, and if you have no interest in something that’s probably not going to change because a parent says that you should try it. I’ve personally gone through this when it comes to art. Despite our talented fine arts faculty here at Randolph, I’ve never been particularly driven when it comes to art. When one of my parents suggested that I take an art class my senior year, I gave them a sideways look to say, "You know that’s not who I am.” Low and behold, I'm not taking art this year. It's a decision I’m happy with even though I didn’t try something new or go out of my comfort zone. So, how can I be telling you to try something new and go out of your comfort zone.
The key to trying something new is to do something you know you aren’t going to hate right away. That may not sound like a particularly good criteria to make a decision and most of the time it isn’t. In fact, most of the time, you should do something you want to do. But taking a calculated risk every now and then can pay off. If it doesn’t, then you know that you never need to have that experience again. I’ll give you an example in my own life. In 7th grade, I started running cross country for one reason - to improve my conditioning for soccer.
"I urge you to take a calculated risk. It can even be related to something you’re already passionate about."
I have to be honest with you. I haven’t done much in my life that I’ve disliked more than running long distances five days a week. I ran for two seasons in middle school and then stopped once I was in high school because I knew it just wasn’t for me. Fast forward to junior year of high school and I wanted a spring sport. I decided that I didn’t want to play soccer anymore but, I still wanted to be active and participate in athletics. A lot of my friends run track and suggested that I join. Immediately, I remembered my cross country days and the flashbacks of running up a sand hill in 95 degree weather at Run in the Sun camp or doing a tempo run around a field trying to avoid insects flying at me, also in the 95 degree heat. I voiced my concerns to my friends, who are all sprinters, as I now am. I came to the conclusion that even if I still disliked running just as much as I did in cross country, I would be with my friends and I would be running shorter distances so I could at least segment the misery into workable chunks. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually enjoyed a good portion of the running in track, and overall I had a great time prior to the season getting cut short. I formed bonds with new people and I got to participate in a sport that was fun and fulfilling.
Running track last year was a risk that I took and that paid off. I think the key to that experience is that I didn’t go into the situation blindly. Taking risks and taking calculated risks are two very different things. I educated myself about track, and decided it seemed like a good risk to take. I urge you to take a calculated risk, and it can even be related to something you’re already passionate about. Personally, I did this the summer before junior year when I created my own business. I had already been interested in business and entrepreneurship for some time. I took a macroeconomics course outside of Randolph, did a job shadow at an investment firm, and attended an entrepreneurship camp. Yet, I still pushed myself further down that path and I tried something familiar to me, yet completely new at the same time. I started a landscaping business, and for all that I researched or was interested in entrepreneurship, nothing came close to the real thing. Nothing came close to the everyday victories and losses that come with running a business. It felt like trying something new and getting out of my comfort zone every single day. I essentially had complete autonomy, and with that freedom came responsibility. I had to “show up to work” on time, act professionally, maintain a fairly rigid timetable, pay employees on time, and keep my cool in difficult situations.
"During my time at Randolph, I’ve become more comfortable with stepping out of my comfort zone and having new experiences in my life."
Mainly, I remember when I almost lost three hundred dollars. Not only did I make it back, but I made more than I thought I would before the problem arose. I was halfway through my biggest job and the customer wanted edging around their flowerbeds. I looked up the price of the edging that they wanted and found that it would be around $100 for all of it. However, when I went to Home Depot, I discovered it would actually be about $400. It seemed that there was no way out. I had to buy and install the edging like I had promised. I bought the edging, installed it, but there was still a very large problem. I was going to lose about $300 due to this mistake. I was already running behind schedule, meaning this job was quickly turning from somewhat profitable to a big loss. My stress was rising due to the seemingly inevitable fact I would lose money and then have to take money out of my own pocket to pay my employees. Yet, I didn’t give in to that and I decided that I could find a way to salvage the job. I talked to the customer about some changes, such as extra flowers or a higher quality mulch, that I thought they might like to add to the project. They liked the changes and agreed to the extra $200 charge. That, plus working extremely hard and taking less breaks than normal, meant that by the time we had finished the job, we were within 5% of our expected profit margin. This specific situation is not only a memory that stands out from my time running the business, but also one of the most important leadership experiences of my life, and one that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t put myself out there and taken a risk. I like to think of my time running the business as me learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It was a process. I didn’t jump in head first to something that I had no interest in. Instead, I took something that I had a passion for and modified it more and more, until I was in a completely different environment.
During my time at Randolph, I’ve become more comfortable with stepping out of my comfort zone and having new experiences in my life, whether it be academic, athletic, or completely unrelated. It has become easier and easier for me, and I’ve done it more and more as time has gone on. I’ve continually had enriching experiences, learned about myself, and formed bonds with new people that I wouldn’t have ordinarily. I’d like to challenge you to never stop broadening your horizons as long as you have a compass to navigate with. As Lauren Bacall said, "Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world. Imagination is the highest kite one can fly."