Have you ever read a book that changed your life? I just did. The book is called Risk Forward: Embrace the Unknown and Unlock Your Hidden Genius. This book is not your typical business book, which is probably why it stopped me in my tracks. Risk Forward is a mosaic that will change the way you view your life forever.
The author, Victoria Labalme, invites readers to embrace the very ambiguity we are often told to fear. For leaders, this concept may be a bit unsettling. However, this may be exactly what is needed, as we redefine how the post-pandemic future will look for each of us.
I was so inspired after reading Risk Forward, that I reached out to Victoria Labalme to learn how this book came to be.
Here’s an excerpt from our conversation.
Me: You took quite a risk writing this non-conventional business book. Tell me about your journey.
Labalme: I’d been working on various books for quite a while and along the way, I would meet with different publishers or agents. I’d often pull back in the process at some point, in part because I felt that I was being squished into a box, and it was not a box I wanted to be in. In part, too, I had other work projects underway, so the book would go on the back burner for months or even years. But when I finally got through those other projects, I said, “All right. Now is the time.”
By that time, I’d decided then to self-publish. I had a very clear vision of what I wanted my books to be—highly designed and experiential. And I was in the process of planning to self-publish when a publisher approached me about working with them. I was working on three different outlines for three different projects. They asked me which book I wanted to do first, and I said without hesitation, Risk Forward.
Me: It feels like this book is especially poignant, given how many people have spent this past year in a period of flux and introspection. Did you write Risk Forward during the pandemic?
Labalme: I actually had planned to write Risk Forward long before the pandemic. In fact, I signed the book contract with my publisher, Hay House, in the summer of 2019, and I had done a TEDx Talk titled Risk Forward back in 2016. I’d been talking about the value of not knowing and uncertainty and the importance of fluidity and flexibility for years. It just so happened that the timing for the book worked out well.
Me: Why this book and not the others?
Labalme: Risk Forward was for me the most exciting topic. I have another branch to my business called Rock The Room® which is a full product suite for people who want to knock their presentations out of the park—live or virtual—and that brand was and is flourishing. In addition to Rock The Room® I’ve also done of lot of keynotes around a topic called The Throughline. But the Risk Forward® themes are foundational to everything I teach—online, in workshops, in VIP sessions or via keynotes. And just as I say in the book, paying attention to what excites and interests you is essential. I also felt that if there were one book I’d want to leave behind for my family, friends and readers, it would be this.
Me: This explains why this book touched my heart.
Labalme: Yes. This book was not reverse engineered to create a sales funnel.
Me: Who is this book for?
Labalme: As I say in the opening line, “Some people in life know exactly what they want to achieve. This is a book for the rest of us.” I wrote Risk Forward to address the value of those moments in-between— whether you’re facing a blank page or a business decision or a bigger choice in life. The book helps people trust themselves, see the value of their own ideas, and take action. For this reason, it speaks to a range of people. One CEO of a biotech firm wrote me to say she’s buying copies for her whole team and that Risk Forward will be their new “playbook.” An entrepreneur estimated that the book saved her company $5 million dollars from going down a multi-year trajectory that would have taken the company off course. I’ve received notes from executives, consultants, entrepreneurs, small business owners, artists, speakers, students, leaders, new mothers, long-time parents, therapists, scientists…all saying how the book speaks to them. There’s a universality to the message—whether you’re leading a team, struggling with a creative or work project; or whether you’re in a transition with your health, your relationships or your career.
Me: One of my favorite chapters in the book is on Indecision. Often leaders feel pressured to decide by a specific date on a critical matter, even though they’re unclear as to which direction to go. They feel pressure, as indecision in the business world is negative. Can you say more about this?
Labalme: Yes, in the book, I write about the value of indecision. When we’re pressured to make a decision, we often bypass doing our due diligence—whether we’re hiring someone, purchasing a product, or making a choice on where to invest our time, talents, or dollars. I’d made this mistake in the past, and I’ve witnessed a lot of leaders make this mistake. But the fact is, indecision carries wisdom; it carries clues. In Risk Forward, I offer the reader a series of questions to start to understand those clues. People are finding this chapter and those that lead up to it incredibly affirming.
Me: Anything else you’d like to share?
Labalme: I’d simply add that it’s important to be careful when setting goals. In many cultures, goal-setting is perceived as an unquestionably valuable activity. When you set or declare a goal, people often respond with praise, but that can be dangerous. Is the goal even something you want? Does it beckon you forward? It’s essential to head down the path that’s right for you. Risk Forward gives people the tools and the courage to do just that and start to find their way.
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