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Malcolm Gladwell: I'm not a risk-taker, but here's why you should be

Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell may not be a huge risk-taker, but he thinks you should be.

"I'm not a good example of a risk-taker," he told CNBC Make It at OZY Fest.

But in fact he took one of the biggest risks of his life when he was just 20 years old: "It's not that much of a risk, but I'm a Canadian who immigrated to another country, and came to this country not knowing a single person, to do a job that I got fired from within two months."

Moving to a new country may seem like a big risk to most, but Gladwell wishes he had traveled even further. "I would have told my 21-year-old self to leave North America," he says.

Malcolm Gladwell
Bloomberg | Getty Images
Malcolm Gladwell

"In retrospect, I have spent too much of my time in the same and narrow world," says Gladwell. "I would have been a much more interesting and thoughtful person if I had, I don't know, gone to South America, gone somewhere different."

Gladwell notes that while taking the time to travel does help people broaden their horizons, it's not the only kind of personal leap that can help set you up for success.

"I don't mean physical risks or social risks, I mean intellectual risks," he says. "It's about putting yourself in places where you are uncomfortable with what people are thinking."

While the prospect of any kind of risk-taking can be intimidating, Gladwell says it's important to remember that most people who have found success have done so by taking some kind of a chance.

Malcolm Gladwell
Photo by Bloomberg
Malcolm Gladwell

"All of us need to acknowledge that others have taken these kinds of risks and profited," he says.

If they can do it, so can you. Hard work, Gladwell says, is the only way to make sure that taking a risk pays off.

"The only way you overcome the obstacles associated with risk-taking is if you put your nose to the grindstone," says Gladwell. "There is no way around hard work. There are never any shortcuts, and anyone who tells you there's a shortcut is blowing smoke."

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