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Are you a risk taker like Johnny Depp?

As a corporate keynote speaker, I talk a lot about motivation and how to find it. Here is an article I wrote in the Tennessean Business section that I hope you like:

I bet you have an opinion about Johnny Depp. Perhaps, you believe he is a great character actor. You may think he has an artistic soul or perhaps he is a bit out of the norm. But would you believe that Johnny Depp thrives on being a risk taker.

In a recent interview about his role as Tonto in his new movie “Lone Ranger”, Depp says he seeks roles that he can fall flat on his face. He thrives on the challenge of knowing he may fail at any time. In his new role as Tonto, there is always the chance he may be criticized severely for making his Native American character a stereotyped fool. But Depp can’t stand taking the easy path. Giving his amazing character choices from Edward Sissorhands to Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp is definitely a risk-taking actor.

Do you need to take risks at your job like Depp?

Do you thrive on a rush from risk?

If so, you may have a similar neurological make up to race car drivers and bungee jumpers. Psychologists have recently shown that high-risk takers have low serotonin in their brain. This has nothing to do with intelligence but rather, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps with brain function. Having low serotonin is analogous to a car idling in low gear. High risk taking stimulates the serotonin production in the brain and thus, acts as a reward.

If you are a high-risk taker in your business, you are in good company. Another compatriot of the high risk taking fraternity is Mark Cuban. The well-known billionaire, rose to riches when he cofounded MicroSolutions and then sold it to Compuserve in 1990. He then founded, an internet sports radio service which he sold to Yahoo for $5.9 Billion. Now he owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team.

Cuban’s philosophy for business is to take risks and stated, “If you do not have the courage to get out of your comfort zone, you will never be successful”.  Cuban believes that risk taking and success go hand in hand.

But involving risk into the work equation does not mean you are doing it haphazardly and without a plan. Consider “Red” Adair who became famous for his expertise of extinguishing oil fires. He gained his fame from putting out the Gulf War oil fires, which he completed in nine months and received a special letter of recognition from President George W. Bush for his amazing work.

Red Adair said that while he thrives in danger, he always goes into his work very well prepared. Red said that fighting a fire is like going into battle with a well-thought out plan.

Johnny Depp, Mark Cuban, Red Adar (and perhaps you) thrive in the working world when it turns high risk. But engaging in high-risk behavior doesn’t mean you act impulsively. Just because you may not want a net when you leap does not mean you do not have a plan when you land.



Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a professor of human performance at Austin Peay State University. The author of the Washington Post bestselling book, “Full Throttle,” he is a business motivational speaker who speaks to businesses about mental and emotional toughness. Email or see<>


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About Gregg Steinberg

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a performance psychology expert, best selling author, and inspirational keynote speaker on the various topics relating to individual and team performance. Google+ Profile Get in touch with Dr. Gregg

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