In praise of risk takers

I always make a point of working every Labor Day, if even just writing a few emails on my way to the pool.

In my view, Labor Day really is an outlier.

I think virtually every other public holiday celebrates risk-takers.



On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the independence of our country – a risk-taking venture, if there ever was one.

On Veterans Day, we honor our soldiers who risk their lives to guarantee our freedoms. And on Memorial Day, we honor those soldiers who risked and gave their lives.

On Thanksgiving, we give thanks for the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving was done by pilgrims who risked it all to settle a new land.

Racial Equality

In January, we dedicate a holiday to Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who risked – and ultimately gave – his life for the cause of racial equality.

And even Columbus Day celebrates a man who took enormous personal risk sailing into uncharted waters to find an alternative path to India… and managed to find the Americas instead.


I can even stretch it and argue that New Year’s Day celebrates risk taking because the only thing there is to do that day is watch college football… and the college football players might be risking injury in order to get a pro contract come spring.

In my view, Labor Day is the only federal holiday that doesn’t honor risk-taking.

It’s the proverbial participation trophy of holidays, a day that celebrates Homer Simpson for doing nothing more than showing up to collect a paycheck.

In my view, that’s ridiculous and un-American.

Think of Steve Jobs slaving away in his parents’ garage with Steve Wozniak as they made the first Apple computers.

Think of the countless aspiring entrepreneurs pouring their hearts into new business plans on their kitchen tables.

In my opinion, most of their plans will fail and many of these men and women will be ruined financially.

Personal Sacrifice

But in my opinion their sacrifice will not be in vain.

It’s not just the successful entrepreneurs that create jobs and opportunities, in my view. Failed entrepreneurs push us forward too by allowing others to learn from their mistakes.

Some enterprising young lad or lass may find a way to do it better the next time.

But that evolution can never happen without the first entrepreneurs that took those initial risks and ultimately failed.


From the humble taco stand owner to the founder of the next great tech startup, in my opinion, every person that puts their ass on the line and forgoes the safety of a regular paycheck for the uncertain risk of business ownership is a hero, whether they get a holiday or not.

That’s enough grandstanding for today. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

Throw a steak on the grill, toss a football with your kid, and take pleasure in the fact that we live in a country wealthy enough to enjoy something as frivolous as Labor Day.

This piece first appeared on the Rich Investor.

Photo Credit: Enrico Strocchi via Flickr Creative Commons