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Risk Taking

1. By definition, risk-takers often fail. So do morons. In practice it’s difficult to sort them out.

Scott Adams (b.1957) U.S. cartoonist and humorist. The Dilbert Principle (1996)


2. Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer.

Harold Adamson (1906-80) U.S. songwriter. 1943. Song title. Referring to the phrase used by a pilot about to crash land, later adopted for general use.


3. Don’t subcontract your soul.

Anonymous. Referring to trends in outsourcing in Federal Express. Quoted in Liberation Management (Tom Peters; 1992)


4. If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainty.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher and statesman. Advancement of Learning (1605)


5. We are pioneers and the history of pioneers is not that good.

Jeff Bezos (b.1964) U.S. founder and C.E.O. of Sunday Telegraph (London) (July 2000)


6. Never is there just one cockroach in the kitchen.

Warren Buffett (b.1930) U.S. entrepreneur and financier. Annual Report (1989)


7. We will continue to ignore political and economic forecasts, which are an expensive distraction for many investors…we have usually made our best purchases when apprehensions about some macro event were at a peak. Fear is the foe of the faddist, but the friend of the fundamentalist.

Warren Buffett (b.1930) U.S. entrepreneur and financier. Chairman’s Letter to Shareholders (March 7, 1995)


8. Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.

Warren Buffett (b.1930) U.S. entrepreneur and financier. Quoted in Treasury of Investment Wisdom (Bernice Cohen; 1999)


10. Genius has been described as a supreme capacity for taking trouble.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) British writer. Notebooks (H. Festing-Jones, ed.; 1912)


11. Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes the furthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.

Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) U.S. consultant and author. Attrib.


12. Regulation is not an easy billet in London because you are riding a tiger, really.

Howard Davies (b.1951) British chairman of the Financial changes to the regulation of financial services. Sunday Times (London) (July 2000)


13. It’s important not to be too emotional. You just go and roll with the punches.

Robert De Castella (b.1957) Australian athlete and executive director of Focus on You. Press conference (1990)


14. Dealmaking beats working. Dealmaking is exciting and fun, and working is grubby.

Peter F. Drucker (b.1909) U.S. management consultant and academic. Interview, Time (1990)


15. If you are scared to go to the think you are lost.

John Foster Dulles (1888-1959) U.S. statesman. Life (January 16, 1956)


16. In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) U.S. essayist, lecturer and poet. The Conduct of Life (1860)


17. A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.

Guy Fawkes (1570-1606) English conspirator. Referring to the attempted destruction of Parliament. Speech (November 1605)


18. The lesson I learned was not to think small.

Lynn Forrester (b.1955) U.S. business executive. Sunday Times (London) (June 2000)


19. A little blindness is necessary when you undertake risk.

Bill Gates (b.1955) U.S. entrepreneur, chairman and C.E.O. of Microsoft. Remark (November 1997)


20. There are one hundred men seeking security to one able man who is willing to risk his fortune.

  1. Paul Getty (1892-1976) U.S. entrepreneur, oil industry executive and financier. Quoted in The Great Getty (Robert Lenzner; 1985)


21. We became uncompetitive by not being tolerant of mistakes.

Roberto Goizueta (1931-97) U.S. C.E.O. of Coca-Cola. Fortune (May 1995)


22. You can try anything as long as it is above the waterline.

Wilbert Lee Gore (b.1986) U.S. founder of Goretex. Referring to risks that would not affect the integrity of the business. Quoted in Thriving on Chaos (Tom Peters; 1987)


23. Markets operate under uncertainty. It is therefore crucial to market performance that participants manage their risks properly…To the extent that policymakers are unable to anticipate or evaluate the types of complex risks that the newer financial technologies are producing, the answer, as it always has been…less debt, more equity and hence a larger buffer against adversity.

Alan Greenspan (b.1926) U.S. economist and chairman of U.S. Federal Reserve Board. Speech to the Financial Crisis Conference, Council on Foreign Relations, New York. “Global Challenges” (July 12, 2000)


24. I am a risk taker but only within rules. I just like the support that an organization gives, combined with the freedom to express myself.

Guy Hands (b.1959) Zimbabwean C.E.O. of Terra Firma Capital Partners. Management Today (October 1999)


25. We sort out all the hygiene factors, get all the control and risks battened down, then look for the sizzle.

Guy Hands (b.1959) Zimbabwean C.E.O. of Terra Firma Capital Partners. Management Today (October 1999)


26. Being in front merely gives one the right to try harder. It means that you are setting the pace which every competitor has to follow.

John Harvey-Jones (b.1924) British management adviser, author and former chairman of ICI. All Together Now (1994)


27. If we are to be more prosperous we need more millionaires and more bankrupts.

Keith Joseph (1918-94) British politician. Maiden speech to the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament (February 19, 1988)


28. Go around asking a lot of damn-fool questions and taking chances.

Alberto Juantorena (b.1950) Cuban athlete and businessman. Quoted in American Magazine (February 1951)


29. There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.

John F. Kennedy (1917-63) U.S. president. Speech to Americans for Democratic Action (May 12, 1961)


30. A lot of people criticize Formula 1 as an unnecessary risk. But what would life be like if we only did what is necessary?

Niki Lauda (b.1949) Austrian race car driver and founder of Lauda-Air. Quoted in Treasury of Investment Wisdom (Bernice Cohen; 1999)


31. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient…Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) U.S. writer. Gift from the Sea (1955)


32. Unless you’re running scared all the time, you’re gone.

Michael C. Lynch (b.1946) Scottish historian. Quoted in Playboy (1994)


33. I have not become the Publisher to stand by and watch MGN commit suicide.

Robert Maxwell (1923-91) British publisher, business executive and politician. Referring to the threat of print union strikes to viability of MGN (Mirror Group Newspapers). Daily Mail (London) (April 1985)


34. We must win respect for daring and courage and have the ability which all good editors must have to make enemies.

Robert Maxwell (1923-91) British publisher, business executive and politician. Sunday Citizen (June 1967)


35. Sometimes you have to pay a high price for an opportunity.

Rupert Murdoch (b.1931) U.S. C.E.O. of News Corporation. Forbes (June 1998)


36. I hope one of you is picking up the check because I lost $1.2 billion today.

Rupert Murdoch (b.1931) U.S. C.E.O. of News Corporation. 1987. Referring to the 1987 stock market crash. Forbes (June 1998)


37. If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Isaac Newton (1642-1727) English mathematician and physicist. Letter to Robert Hooke (February 5, 1675)


38. I pick the jockeys and the jockeys pick the horses and ride ‘em.

  1. Ross Perot (b.1930) U.S. entrepreneur, venture capitalist and politician. Quoted in the NeXT Big Thing (Randall Stross; 1993)


39. You must somehow steer between the Scylla of humility and the Charybids of foolhardiness.

Stan Rapp, U.S. advertising executive and cofounder of Rapp Collins. The New Maxi-Marketing (co-written with Thomas L. Collins; 1995)


40. Risk is what an entrepreneur eats for breakfast. It’s what she slips into bed with at night. If you have no appetite for this stuff, or no ability to digest it, then get out of the game right now.

Heather Robertson (b.1942) Canadian author. Taking Care of Business (1997)


41. To be a leader in this new economy, you have to love risk-which means patterning your life on the heroic, not on the strategic. Acting boldly is better than acting knowingly.

Harriet Rubin (b.1952) U.S. author. “How Will You Fail?,” Fast Company (1999)


42. The easy way out usually leads back in.

Peter Singe (b.1947) U.S. academic and author. The Fifth Discipline. The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1990)


43. We couldn’t afford to miss computer revolution.

Stan Shih (b.1945) Taiwanese C.E.O. of the Acer group. Forbes (September 1998)


44. I am cautious about against the herd. I am liable to be trampled on.

George Soros (b.1930) U.S. financier, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Quoted in Treasury of Investment Wisdom (Bernice Cohen; 1999)


45 .You don’t go to a poker table with no money in your pocket.

Barbara Thomas (b.1947) U.S. banker. Management Today (October 1999)