“Boundary-thinning” is the term I use for the exercise I engage to stay fit for taking calculated risk. I do live my life on the edge, but not recklessly. I think of “boundary thinning” as a conscious activity forcing me to an uncomfortable, yet manageable threshold of fear. It keeps my brain alert and geared for strategic and visionary thinking, my nerves steadied to act on the weighted average of emotion, and my point of view one of can-do optimism. As I very consciously and carefully test the edge, it also reminds me what my limits are so I don’t go blindly over.
As a child, my conscious “training” at risk-taking lead me to sneak out of camp cabins in the middle of the night in search of adventure. My boundary thinning in adult life takes the form of solo sailing my 34-foot racer/cruiser on Lake Champlain. Perfect concentration and great judgment are tuned when close hauled alone in a 30-knot wind. Most recently, I’ve taken up mountain biking to get me out of my comfort zone.
Boundary thinning has prepared me to take the real risks that have changed my life. At 13, I shocked my poor mother by singlehandedly applying to boarding school. At 19, I traveled through Italy during the fascist revolution. At 25, I left Bank Boston to marry a man 22 years my senior and together we built our own house and homestead on a Vermont mountain. Ten years later, with two very young daughters, I divorced him and left the homestead behind. In 1997, I stepped up from being CFO to take the helm of The Vermont Teddy Bear Company then a public company in a state of undeclared bankruptcy. And in 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession, I acquired Terry, the Original Women’s Bicycling Company.
Now 55, I enter this New Year thinking a lot about aging. To hell with wrinkles and hair – I never really gave a damn anyway. The most troubling consequence of this is a desire to stick to routines, to dwell in my comfort zone. The counterpoint to this is the anxiety I feel when I travel to a new place, let alone to one where I have to adapt my cell phone, or execute on a novel new marketing strategy.
Perhaps I’ve learned to feel deeply the fragility of precious states of well-being. With more than a half-life of hindsight, I see what there is to lose and that makes it harder to take risk.
But I’m resolved on this New Year’s Day to continue the pursuit of calculated risk. I plan to ride new roads in unfamiliar places and ski where I’ve never skied before. And I will rise to the challenges of taking a company like Terry into modern marketing. With a mission to get more women on bicycles, Terry can help them thin their own boundaries. Climbing on a bike for the first time since childhood is taking a calculated risk, but it can change your life.