To Risk Is To Live


Peter Billingham The Artful SpeakerTo Risk is To Live

It seems that I have a major “risk” cycle. My wife says it’s about every 8 – 10 years. She can see it coming. I can’t. But I can feel it. It arrived again not long ago. It’s a bit like the poem, “Come To The Edge,” quoted in the last post. I come to the edge and the voice asks a question of me, will I jump?

I came to the edge again recently.

Life is a risk. To risk is to live. Each day is filled with 24 hours of possibility that today, this day, something unexpected could happen that steals away what we value the most. Family, health, possessions, freedom, even life. Depending on where you live in the world, that could be an ever present and unjust reality you face everyday without any choice. So why would anyone voluntarily chose to wander from roads that seem secure and safe for paths unknown and untrod?

The Risk Cycle In My Life

The first risk was choosing to leave school without taking my final exams. I didn’t see that as much of a risk. Dad had died. I was in my early teens. High School, like much of my life then, didn’t make any sense. My Saturday job as a butcher offered me a 3 year apprenticeship. So I jumped.

We were broke. No seriously, we had no money, a mortgage we couldn’t really afford, a house that was in dire need of repair and a young family, well we had a dog we had brought for £5. The voice in the advert offered me commission only insurance selling job in the evenings and within a few months, I was earning more than my weekly butchers pay. So I jumped.

This next cycle was one of my longest. The 13 years I spent with Sun Alliance paved the way for considerable personal growth as a developing leader, coach and speaker. Climbing the corporate ladder was important to me then. I climbed hard. I climbed successfully. The view on the way up provided significant income and status, they even gave me a BMW to use. But one day the voice came back. I came to the edge and this time it was like an Acapulco cliff divers view of world. It was high, and a long way down, from so called “significant” corporate status, to “mature student.” So I jumped.

The “mature student” years at Birmingham University were tougher on my ego, than my brain. So much of my identity had been tied up in the words that followed my name on a business card. Peter Billingham – Student, didn’t come with much kudos. The years and a First Class Honours Degree happened quickly. Three Summers had been spent fighting the dragons that lived in the bushes in our garden with my son Sam and patience stretching hours teaching my daughter Laura to ride a bike. Beautiful days. Memorable days. The call to enter full-time ministry came from the One who had called my name many years before. That voice called to start a Church. So I jumped.

Building a vibrant community of Jesus followers was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. Only those that have done similar understand the 24/7 tension, pressure and feeling of responsibility it brings, but also the many rewards. One Sunday morning I looked across the faces of the congregation that I had come to love deeply and serve with all my heart. The 10 years and 1 week had passed in a moment. That familiar voice was back. So I jumped.

I didn’t know anybody and couldn’t understand or read the cyrillic messages that shouted from multitudes of billboards that lined the streets and obligatory TV screens that adorned every cafe wall when I arrived in Kiev. Vibrant, entrepreneurial, chaotic, mystic, the city oozed centuries of history. I loved it. On the surface, Western, but soon I discovered the depth, wealth and riches of Eastern that resided hidden beneath the ever present covering of materialism and commercialism. So many things were counterfeit, but what was truly genuine were the people. It makes it more the sadder for me to see this nation ripped apart by conflict because good people, people with hopes and dreams are possibly being forced to fight now for the freedom of their children.

The Voice Came Back

Recently, I was in a meeting and though my mouth was talking and my boss was listening, there was another voice in my head, a voice I had heard before. A voice that was saying come to the edge, today is the day.

So I jumped.

Some have faithfully and willingly jumped with me in the past.
Some have watched from a distance as I jumped.
Some have encouraged me when I jumped.
Some have criticised me when I jumped.
Some have said, don’t jump.

Saying Yes To Risk

With risk comes adventures undiscovered and opportunities unknown. I want to say yes to that voice of adventure. I want to say yes to that voice of challenge. I want to say yes to the voice of life. Truth is, deep within all of us is a part that wants to be liked and appreciated. That part can be small or for some quite large and rejection hurts. Of course, there are levels of risk. It is a risk to write a blog. It is a risk to write a book. It is a risk to walk to the centre of a stage, stand in front of strangers and speak your heart out with the ideas you have creatively cultivated and hold so close. Whenever you take those kinds of risks people will reject you. It is a fact. Accept it, but don’t let it prevent you from jumping.

Saying Yes To New Doors

You seldom know the new doors that will open when you chose to close old ones behind you. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t experience the new without leaving the old. You can’t discover new lands of possibility without setting sail from the harbour of familiarity. So jump. I love what Leonardo da Vinci says,

“Once you have flown, your eyes will ever gaze skyward. For once you have been there … There you will go again!”

What about you? Have you heard that same voice? What is it calling you to jump towards? It could be a small voice, a voice you have ignored, but its persistent requests to live a bigger life just won’t be silenced. So jump. You may need to start with little jumps, that’s ok, but jump. I would love to chat with you if you do.

Photo rights SXC.HU


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Posted on by Peter Billingham in Leadership, Public Speaking

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

4 Responses to To Risk Is To Live

  1. Peitho

    “Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express who we really are.” Don Miguel Ruiz

    • Peter Billingham

      That is a really great quote, thanks. So true, just reading The Authentic Swing by S Pressfield – he says the same in that book. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Conor Neill

    “We must leave behind the life we are expecting to live the life that is waiting for us” Joseph Campbell (from memory… might be a little different, but the meaning is there…)

    • Peter Billingham

      Thanks Conor for taking the time to comment on my blog – I appreciate that. Thanks for the quote, went and found it and glad you lead me on that journey – “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Very thought provoking words. BTW – great site you have got yourself! Thanks and great to connect with you.

Reply to Conor Neill