Skip to Content

Summary: Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty & Launch a Brilliant Career by Christie Hunter Arscott


Too often, women keep their heads down at work. They don’t want to make mistakes, so they avoid speaking up in meetings and rarely offer their ideas. These actions hold them back from the leadership opportunities and promotions they deserve. It’s time to take some risks, argues career coach Christie Hunter Arscott. Her helpful guide will steer you through the process of strategic risk-taking. Learn how harnessing a curious, courageous and agile mind-set can propel you into your dream job. From embracing change to asking for what you want, Arscott says, taking risks is the secret to career success.


  • Risk-taking is a path toward upward mobility.
  • Assess which risks to take, determine possible rewards, note lessons learned and then risk again.
  • Ask more questions when approaching risky situations.
  • Don’t waste your time with assumptions that keep you from taking risks.
  • Carry out small, courageous acts to build the confidence to take risks.
  • Risk-takers advocate for themselves and others.
  • Cultivate an agile mind-set to better manage risk-taking.

Book Summary: Begin Boldly - How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty & Launch a Brilliant Career


Risk-taking is a path toward upward mobility.

Top CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs all have one thing in common: They take risks. Unfortunately, people – especially women – often avoid taking risks because they are afraid to make mistakes. As a result, they often don’t advance as far in their careers as they could, and they develop a fearful mind-set toward risk. Yet, taking risks is how you progress. It’s a way to push yourself to the next level in any career.

“Senior-level women leaders view risk-taking as a continuous practice in their lives and careers.”

Risk-taking exposes you to learning challenges and growth opportunities, and it teaches you the value of stepping outside your comfort zone. In fact, it’s a skill you can develop and turn into a formidable, four-step habit: “risk, reward, refine and repeat.”

Assess which risks to take, determine possible rewards, note lessons learned and then risk again.

Start with defining the risks you want to take. Do you want to go after a promotion? Change industries? Go back to school to learn a new skill? Whatever risk you have in mind, look at taking it as a strategic decision. Begin by assessing your risks:

  1. Consider what’s motivating you to take this risk and whether that drive is strong enough to push you through the inevitable setbacks.
  2. Change your mind-set to reframe the risk as a positive: “Putting myself up for promotion could backfire” can become, “I have the opportunity to make a bold move.”
  3. Envision how you want things to turn out, and use that goal as a guiding force when you feel uncertain or lost.
  4. Plan for both failures and successes so that you will know what to do in any situation to keep moving forward.
  5. Lean on your support system for advice.

Next, consider everything that you could gain from taking the risk. Rewards involve both positive outcomes and the valuable lessons you can learn from failures. For example, if you go after a project leader role, land the position and succeed, then your rewards include more credibility, responsibilities, money and confidence. If you fail to get the promotion, then the feedback your boss gives you will provide information and may lead to opportunities to make progress and, hopefully, try again.

“Remember that risk-taking is a skill, and like any skill, it can be honed with practice.”

Whether the results are good or bad, it’s up to you to transform them into a continuous path of improvement. With each risk, ask yourself what you learned or can take away from the experience. Then, apply your now-refined abilities, methods and know-how to future risks or ventures.

Ask more questions when approaching risky situations.

Some of the most successful women in the world, such as Global CEO of Chanel and former chief human resources officer of Unilever, Leena Nair, attribute their achievements to having a curious mind-set. Nair says she approaches each opportunity or risk by asking questions centered around what she can learn.

Sadly, many women find that asking questions is difficult, especially in relation to networking. Women often focus on what they should say to come across as likable, rather than what they actually want to ask. Ironically, asking questions actually makes people like you more and helps alleviate any anxiety you may feel about talking to new people. Furthermore, although studies show that networking is essential to career growth, many women avoid it because they feel it’s “self-serving” or too “manipulative.” To circumvent such feelings, change how you view networking. Instead of looking at it in terms of what you can get, think about it as an issue of what you can give.

Start with simply getting curious about other people. Ask them about themselves, including their needs or pain points, so you can determine where your skills could be helpful to them. Aim to forge deeper connections. Don’t simply ask for information you could easily look up online. People want to talk about their passions, not the weather. So, instead of asking something like, “What is your job?” ask, “What is your passion?”

“Good things come to those who ask.”

Women also struggle with asking for what they want in other circumstances, such as during negotiations. Studies show that men see negotiations as a game, but women find them more of a chore. The tendency to avoid difficult conversations often has a negative effect on women’s negotiations as well as their careers and the amount of money they make.

For women, the key to a successful negotiation lies in phrasing their points and opinions as questions. For instance, while working as Bacardi’s chief next generation officer, Nim de Swardt realized that her job title did not grant her the power to enact the changes she wanted to make within the company. So she presented her challenges to the CEO and asked how he might fix those issues, if he were in her shoes. Swardt knew the answer was to be promoted, but she needed her boss to see the situation from her point of view. By phrasing her opinion as a question and presenting several solutions that also granted her more power, she successfully landed her promotion.

Don’t waste your time with assumptions that keep you from taking risks.

Curiosity plays a major role in how you manage your time. If you don’t organize your time well, you’ll often waste it on things that don’t help you make progress, and you won’t have the energy to take necessary risks. In fact, research shows that one of the main reasons women avoid risk is that they feel other things need to take precedence.

“My best bit of advice: Ask, don’t assume.”

While some believe a better work-life balance is the answer to having more time, they overlook a key problem: You only have so much time, and no more. So, how are you allocating your hours? Are you spending your time doing the things you assume others expect you to do or the things you know they want from you? Instead of guessing what actions will earn a promotion, ask. The author of Take the Lead, Betsy Myers, who was a senior advisor to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, says that even though it’s easier to assume what people expect, asking them directly is the only way to know for sure.

To gain clarity about how you should spend your time, follow these tips:

  1. Create a list of people whose needs are important to you.
  2. Ask them what they actually want from you.
  3. Reorganize your time or schedule to accommodate those needs appropriately.

For example, maybe you think that cooking a homemade meal every evening is an important expectation to meet for your family. Yet, when you ask them what’s important, they reply that they want you to spend more quality time with them instead of exhausting yourself making dinner. If you determine whether the ways you spend your time actually coincide with the things that matter most, you can better prioritize your available hours.

Carry out small, courageous acts to build the confidence to take risks.

Women tend to focus more on big wins, such as getting hired or promoted, over smaller successes, such as speaking up in meetings, taking on new challenges or presenting novel ideas. When you take note only of major milestones, feelings of self-doubt may arise. You may wonder if you’re actually being successful enough. Numerous studies show that women habitually underrate their skills and performance level. Their lack of self-assurance can lead to a skewed perception of their capabilities and their ability to take risks.

To combat self-doubt, focus on your small wins. Celebrate each success to build the courage to take bigger risks. Nair recalls that, early in her career, she would write down every time she spoke up in a meeting and give herself a star. When you practice small courageous acts, you build the confidence you need for bigger ones.

Author Christie Hunter Arscott had a coaching client who set up weekly meetings with her manager. In those meetings, she gave the manager weekly progress reports, shared her accomplishments and presented new ideas. Before long, she landed a big promotion.

“Small acts with big returns can help early career women get past their fears of risk-taking.”

If pursing bold moves at work feels too overwhelming, then do something bold outside of work first. Join a gym, go on more dates or try to learn a new skill. Building courage is the same as building muscle: The more you use it the stronger it gets.

Risk-takers advocate for themselves and others.

Many women operate under the belief that if they keep their heads down, compromise and work hard, their efforts will pay off. However, this isn’t how the workplace rewards people. Women face a lot of gender stereotypes that often exclude them from being considered for leadership roles. Therefore, it’s up to you to share your accomplishments and promote your capabilities.

Statistically, women who speak up about themselves progress further in their careers. Start with crafting your own narrative, instead of letting others shape it for you. Consider:

  • “Who you are” – Think about what makes you unique. Ask friends and relatives how they define you, and try to string together some common themes: hardworking, passionate, expert ax thrower, and so on.
  • “What you do” – Go beyond your job title. Think about how you serve people and the problems you solve. For example, if you work in HR, you could say that you facilitate a diverse, inclusive workspace by championing a wide range of new hires and supporting ongoing teams.
  • “Why do what you do” – What sparks your passions? What drives you? Why do you feel your job is important?
  • “How do you deliver value/make an impact” – Highlight your accomplishments. How have you changed your organization for the better?
  • “Where do you want to go” – List your near-term goals and aspirations. Make sure they’re tangible and clear.

Talk about your work in terms of the impact you’ve had. Use powerful, active language, and emphasize measurable results. For example, if you organized an activist event when you were a college student, describe it so that the language highlights the importance of your role. Note that you led a group of students, took charge of introducing new concepts, received tremendous feedback and inspired future students to continue your efforts.

“Empowered women empower women.”

As you develop the courage to advocate for yourself, pass this skill along to others. Women need other women to help them advocate on their own behalf. Help others rise by highlighting their successes, encouraging your company to hire more women and creating a wider network of powerful stakeholders. Advocacy is a great tool that helps break down gender stereotypes and builds your confidence about speaking up and taking risks.

Cultivate an agile mind-set to better manage risk-taking.

Taking risks and embracing change can feel daunting, but developing your mental agility in ever-evolving circumstances helps you confront challenges and emerge successful.However, life is full of surprises, especially when you start experimenting with risk-taking, so it’s best to start small with short exercises in a secure environment.

Begin by implementing an “agile experimentation” process:

  1. “Inquire” – Identify the problem you face and why is it something you need to solve. Ask what information is available. What don’t you know? Has this issue come up before? What can you learn from previous approaches?
  2. “Ideate” – Think of potential solutions and write them down. Don’t worry about feasibility; just get your ideas out.
  3. “Experiment” – Pick the solution you want to try, place it in a low-risk, small-scale setting, and determine which indicators will show success or failure. Try, test and alter your approach as needed.
  4. “Evolve” – What did you learn from the experiment? Don’t worry about getting things right the first time; take what you’ve learned and move forward.

Sometimes your experiments won’t yield complete results, and you may feel that you’ve missed key pieces of information. However, in most fast-paced industries, you won’t have time to go back and make things 100% correct. Your agility and willingness to adapt and make changes later, down the road, will help you move forward with confidence. Women too often think that they have to get things completely right straight away, but that’s rarely the case in most businesses. Being comfortable with change is actually a better skill to develop than always seeking perfection.

“Many of life’s greatest opportunities and rewarding moments are plot twists in your journey.”

When changes happen, you can become a victim or embrace them and go with the flow. Change can open great opportunities if you have a positive, agile mind-set. Focus on the things you can control, and let the rest go.

About the Author

Christie Hunter Arscott is a career coach and career expert.



“Begin Boldly” by Christie Hunter Arscott is a captivating and empowering book that delves into the challenges and opportunities women face in the professional world. Arscott, drawing from her own experiences and extensive research, provides valuable insights and practical guidance on how women can break through barriers, embrace risk, and forge successful careers. In this brief review, we will explore the key themes, strengths, and potential areas for improvement found within the pages of “Begin Boldly.”

Key Themes

  • Reimagining Risk: Arscott highlights the importance of redefining risk and challenging the traditional notions that hold women back. She encourages readers to embrace calculated risks, step out of their comfort zones, and leverage opportunities to advance their careers.
  • Embracing Uncertainty: The book emphasizes the need for women to develop resilience and adaptability in the face of uncertainty. Arscott offers practical strategies for managing ambiguity, navigating setbacks, and embracing change as a catalyst for growth and professional development.
  • Overcoming Gender Biases: Arscott addresses the pervasive gender biases that persist in various professional settings. She sheds light on the subtle ways in which bias can impact women’s careers and provides strategies to combat discrimination, advocate for oneself, and create inclusive work environments.
  • Building a Support Network: Recognizing the power of community, Arscott emphasizes the importance of building networks and fostering meaningful relationships. She offers practical advice on finding mentors, sponsors, and allies who can provide guidance, support, and opportunities for career advancement.


  • Empowering and Inspirational: “Begin Boldly” is a highly inspiring book that motivates women to challenge societal norms, embrace their unique strengths, and pursue their professional aspirations fearlessly. Arscott’s writing style is engaging, and her personal anecdotes and stories of successful women add depth and relatability to the narrative.
  • Practical Strategies: The book goes beyond inspiration and provides readers with actionable strategies and tools to navigate their career journeys effectively. Arscott offers tangible steps that readers can take to overcome obstacles, negotiate for fair compensation, and cultivate a growth mindset.
  • Research-Based Insights: Arscott supports her arguments and advice with extensive research, making the book credible and authoritative. She draws from a wide range of studies and data to highlight the systemic challenges women face in the workplace and presents evidence-based solutions.

Areas for Improvement

  • Inclusivity: While the book primarily focuses on the experiences of cisgender women, it could benefit from more inclusive perspectives. Including narratives and insights from women of diverse backgrounds, including women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities, would enhance the book’s relevance and impact.
  • Intersectionality: “Begin Boldly” briefly touches on the concept of intersectionality but could deepen its exploration. By examining how various aspects of identity, such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background, intersect with gender, the book could provide a more nuanced understanding of the challenges women face.


In “Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty & Launch a Brilliant Career,” Christie Hunter Arscott offers a compelling and insightful guide for women navigating their professional journeys. The book empowers readers with practical strategies, research-backed insights, and inspiring stories, encouraging them to challenge the status quo, embrace risk, and build successful careers. While the book could benefit from greater inclusivity and an expanded exploration of intersectionality, it remains a valuable resource for women seeking guidance and inspiration in the workplace.

    Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

    Your Support Matters...

    We run an independent site that\'s committed to delivering valuable content, but it comes with its challenges. Many of our readers use ad blockers, causing our advertising revenue to decline. Unlike some websites, we haven\'t implemented paywalls to restrict access. Your support can make a significant difference. If you find this website useful and choose to support us, it would greatly secure our future. We appreciate your help. If you\'re currently using an ad blocker, please consider disabling it for our site. Thank you for your understanding and support.