quit job career change risk averse lawyer

Take More Risks: How the Movie “Ocean’s 8” Can Teach Us to Make Career Changes

Too Risk Averse to Make a Change?


Have you ever thought about changing your job, entire career or something else big in your life, but, for one reason or another, convinced yourself that you can’t do whatever it is you want to do?  Does the thought of taking a chance, a leap or a risk terrify you?  If you’re a lawyer, then I’m pretty sure you answered yes to these questions.  By nature and by nurture (hello, law school and Biglaw training!), lawyers are some of the most risk averse people around.

It is the definition of a lawyer’s job to find problems, otherwise known as “issue spotting,” identify the litany of problems to her client and advise her client on the gravity of the risks.  What if x, y or z happens?  What will the repercussions be?  You think through all the scenarios – so much could go wrong!  You wish you could make a transaction risk-free, but that’s usually not possible so you do the best you can.  This way of operating – identifying issues and avoiding risks – trickles into your everyday life and you become so risk averse you stop taking any chances.  Sound familiar?

Even for the non-lawyers out there, we’ve all come across situations in our lives where we see an opportunity but deem it too risky to take, so we sit back and let it pass us by.  Let’s change that.


What Debbie Ocean Can Teach Us About Taking More Risks


I recently watched “Ocean’s 8” on a plane and was surprised by how much I loved it.  It was fun to watch the all-female cast, which included some of my favorite actresses (Mindy Kaling, Sandra Bullock!), scheme and work their heist in the style of George Clooney and Brad Pitt in the many Oceans’ movies that came before.

What immediately stood out to me was the way Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock’s character) moved throughout the movie with such confidence and surety in herself and her plan.  Nothing was going to stop her.  While I don’t suggest we all start criminal ventures, there is so much we can learn from Debbie when it comes to taking more risks and going after what we want in our careers and in life.

Putting aside for a moment the fact that she is a criminal, here are three things we should all adopt from Debbie Ocean if we want to stop being so risk averse and take more chances in life.

(Don’t worry, other than some details about the first few minutes of the movie, no spoilers here!)


1. Have confidence in yourself.


“Ocean’s 8” opens with Debbie being interviewed by the prison’s parole board to decide whether or not she should be released.  After a five-year stint in prison, Debbie claims she just wants to walk in the fresh air, pay her bills and live the simple life.  It’s pretty obvious this isn’t what she’s planning, but she’s released nonetheless.  She picks up her belongings, glammed up in the cocktail dress she presumably entered prison in five years prior, and stops to have a quick chat with the female guard she’s been running a scam with while behind bars.

As she sashays out, the guard asks Debbie where she’s going and she says, “Well, I have 45 bucks Dina, I can go anywhere I want.”

This right there is pure confidence.  She’s confident in herself, in her abilities to make it work (whatever “it” happens to be) and in her ultimate success.  She leaves prison with basically nothing but doesn’t dwell on that.  She knows she has the skills (albeit they are criminal in nature) and wastes absolutely no time in setting her plan in motion and getting her life back.

We would all benefit in having the same amount of confidence as Debbie.  Instead of thinking why you can’t do something or why a career leap won’t work for you, go into your situation and assume it’s going to work out because you trust your abilities and know you have the skills to make it (whatever “it” happens to be for you) work.


2. Have a support system in place and a network to lean on.


Debbie leaves prison by herself with just 45 bucks to her name, but she isn’t alone.  In fact, she has a vast network of friends in the “industry” to support her on the outside.  She immediately taps into this network.  Debbie’s friends and her friends-of-friends are what ultimately help her land and work her “job.”

When you are thinking about taking a risk and entering a new field of work, a support system and network of friends, family, co-workers and friends-of-friends is essential in your success.  It’s great to have the confidence in yourself that you can take a risk and land on your feet, but if you have a network behind you to back you up, fill in the knowledge gaps you’re missing and connect you with the right people, you’re guaranteed to succeed.


3. Get your finances together.


Forty-five bucks didn’t get Debbie much further than a bus ticket back to New York City.  She might not have had the money right away, but she definitely had a plan to get that money.

If you’re thinking about taking a big risk, like changing careers, you either need to have the finances to support that change (such as a certain amount stashed away to pay your expenses for six months or a year, if that’s how long you think it will take you to make the career transition), or you have to have a detailed plan in place to get the money together to support your change.  The latter (the plan) is the route Debbie pursued.

Success will come, but it might not come right away or in the way you expect it.  It’s hard to plan for exactly how your risk is going to work out, but you’ll feel ready to make the change and take the risk if you know you have the cash in the bank to back it up.


Take a Risk and Make the Career Change


For those of you out there who want to leave your career but still feel like doing something radical is for somebody else, not you, remember that you’re leaving a job, not prison.  And if Debbie could do it with 45 bucks (plus confidence in herself, a network of friends to help her and a solid financial plan), you can do it, too.

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