Twenty-five years ago I had a tough choice to make. I was involved in two different network marketing companies. I had to decide which one to stick with and which one to let go of.

Company A had a full line of amazing products, first-class promotional material, blue chip production values. Some of the biggest names in network marketing were there. So were a few big-name Hollywood celebrities. This company was just about the most impressive, professional thing going.

Company B had a total of three products, a few mediocre brochures, and a single, somewhat embarrassing video. To call them a mom-and-pop operation was not a cliché, just accurate reporting.

I went out to visit their headquarters; it turned out to be a little trailer in the middle of nowhere. They had a total of three employees: the mom, the pop, and a third person they’d hired to keep the files and answer the phones.

There it was: a choice. I couldn’t keep working them both. One had to go, and I would be staking my future on the other.

I chose Company B.

Why? To this day, I’m honestly not sure. It just resonated. Felt like the right thing to do.

So here’s what happened. Within the next twelve months, Company A was gone. One day they sent out a letter saying how much they appreciated all of us, and how great we were, and they were closing down their networking operations and going retail. It was over.

And Company B? They grew, and kept growing. Next year they will celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. I built an organization with them that has earned me several million dollars. They’ve never missed a single pay period.

This is not to say that all risky choices pay off.

Twenty-three years ago, I had another tough choice. I had started a magazine called Solstice, reporting on health and environmental issues. It was tiny and self-financed, but it was growing. Another magazine I knew about, Macromuse, came available for sale. It was much bigger; buying it would gain us an instant ten-fold increase in visibility and circulation. It would also take financing. It was a risk. I took it. Borrowed the money, bought the magazine, merged the two titles, and just like that, was on my way to building a publishing empire.

It didn’t work. Too much growth, too fast. In a year the business imploded, went belly-up, and dragged me into bankruptcy. As the ancient knight says in Indiana Jones III, “He chose poorly.”

And if I had it over, I’d do it all again. During that year I learned more—about publishing, business, finance, myself—than I could have learned in ten years of school. I climbed out of bankruptcy. We started Upline. Which led to the journal you hold in your hands.

There is no safe. It’s all a risk. The question is, what do you learn?

JOHN DAVID MANN is Consulting Editor of Networking Times.