Honoring Our Instincts: Victoria Labalme on Her New Cinematic Book, Risk Forward | Interviews

It’s so easy to look at someone else who has greater success in your field and assume they have it all figured out. What Risk Forward offers and what Dave is basically saying is, “Everyone is figuring it out.” And we do that each in our own way. The book offers people permission and a series of prompts to help them figure out their next steps—whether they’re an artist, a leader, an entrepreneur, a student or recent graduate, someone going through a change in health, relationships or career. The book helps us bring out the best in ourselves and others, even when we’re in a place of uncertainty. Covid certainly taught us all a lesson there. When people say we are now living in uncertain times, I respond, “We’ve always been in uncertain times. It just became more apparent to us now.” Because nothing ever is guaranteed—our jobs, the market, our health, our relationships, the world around us. I learned that on 9/11 when I watched from my window as the towers exploded and then collapsed. I learned it when my mother, who was the queen of health—Yoga, chamomile tea, healthy food and a calm demeanor—was diagnosed with cancer.

I was so moved by your mother’s wisdom, which beautifully articulates how all of us have strived, in one way or another over the past year, to do the best with what we have.

Not only was she a graceful woman—I say she was like a white lily—she was also ahead of her time in so many ways. She received her PhD from Harvard a few days after she got married. She wrote books, she taught, and she later went on to become Associate Director of the Institute for Advanced Study down in Princeton, which is a think tank where social scientists, historians, mathematicians and physicists—including Albert Einstein—developed and created their important work. My mother would always say to me, “Let things unfold.” Years before I came up with the concept of “Risk Forward,” the title of my book was Finding Your Way

Roger Ebert demonstrated how profound insights could be conveyed in ways that are accessible, and your book is an example of that as well.

People have told me that they’ve found the book profound and thought-provoking, but also whimsical, fun and easy to read. Each word was carefully chosen. I was an English Literature major in college and was specifically interested in poetry. Part of my training in writing poetry was understanding the importance of economy in language. I had a wonderful poetry professor at Stanford, and there was a poem I wrote early on where I described a jazz player on the street in Manhattan. I wrote, “I picked up a small, hard coin and I tossed it in his case,” and my professor said, “You wasted a word there. Actually, you wasted two words, because we already know that a coin is ‘small’ and we know that a coin is ‘hard.’” So I changed it to ‘a cool, moist coin’ to provide two new descriptive words to the concept of a coin. It was a profound lesson in language, and I have been very careful about word choice ever since. 

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