“If you want to see your colleague alive…….” said the bad guy in a menacing voice.

The nonchalant reply by a team member “She’s an operative, she knows the risk.”

Blacklist (Netflix) season 4 episode 9

The operative was on a clandestine mission, out doing her thing. She was putting herself at risk for what she obviously felt was an important cause. Did she really know the risk? I am not sure, but she did make it back in one piece. Despite the danger, she returned to her team at command central, with new information and resolve. All in all, it turned out well.

We, us common folk, may not be members of a behind-the-scenes quasi-legitimate operation working to save the world from bad guys. But hopefully, we do, occasionally put ourselves at risk. Really, how else do we learn, grow, and expand? How else do we contribute to the world and the development of our own precious, once-in-a-lifetime existence?


I love the nonchalant reply “She’s an operative, she knows the risk.”

 Did this mean “We don’t give a shit, shoot her, torture her, we don’t care what happens to her?” I doubt it. She is a valuable member of the team and presumably, they have faith in her.

This operative has a history of early trauma. She is suspicious, hyper-vigilant, on the alert for danger, ready to protect and defend herself, but ultimately capable of seeing through bullshit. She wants the world to be a better place and in her own way, she tries to make a difference. She has her history, her personality, her wants, her needs, and a unique perspective with a special set of gifts. Surely, her team doesn’t want to write her off. Surely, they want what’s best for her?


In one way or another, we are all valuable members of a team. Our “team” may be family, a group of friends, a professional association, or a work-group. Our command central may be a home environment a work space or another organized grouping.

When we take risks do our teams support us? Do our environments expect us to toe the line, follow the rules, and be good soldiers or is there space for creative thinking, fresh decision-making, and calculated risks? Are the members of our team able to sit back and let us do our thing? Do they trust our judgment? Do they allow us the space to learn, grow and express?


Most of us aren’t living our lives at gunpoint but we do have some level of rules/priorities/ guidelines that oversee our choices and behaviors.

Yet we all to some degree deal with the menace of unrealistic expectations and negative judgments. Even our most important teams can have bad guys. We may not be staring down the barrel of a gun but we do face other threats.

When we make different choices and take new actions, we risk upsetting the status quo at command central. As human beings, we are social creatures who are dependent on each other whether we like it or not.

When we color outside of the lines, we set ourselves up for possible rejection and abandonment. Fear of being ousted from a team can stop us from taking the risks that might actually bring our lives to the next level. Our desire to fit in can keep us stuck in paths of least resistance. As you know I call these paths of least resistance “cow paths.” They are the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that become automatic and programmed. That should sound familiar if you have accessed the workbooks. Some of our cow paths get in the way of becoming the CEO of our lives.


What can we learn from “She’s an operative, she knows the risk?” It may sound callous, but what if we choose to see the underlying message as “We trust her judgment, she may get hurt, but we have to let her do her thing, she will learn and grow and bring something of value back to the team?

We are all operatives of a sort, weaving our way through life, reaching for some sort of resolution to life’s challenges.  We may think of life as a game, an adventure, or a war to be fought. But at the end of the day, we are each out there in the world making decisions and making our moves.

Truly living our lives, taking chances, and moving out of our comfort zone takes a certain amount of risk. Should we be taking more risks? I think so, maybe not to the extent where we find ourselves handcuffed, at gunpoint, and at the mercy of the bad guy.

But as we build a stronger belief in ourselves, we can learn to manage messaging that has the potential to take the wind from our sails, slow us down or make us doubt ourselves.

Some insider threats may be blatant or a little insidious. We need to surround ourselves with people who do have faith in our ability to learn and grow. This operative decided to take action without consulting her team. Did she do this because she felt they would try to dissuade her or did she have something to prove to herself?  I think both of these reasons might have motivated her.


Life can be like a clandestine mission. We are born alone and we die alone. Along the way, we may have other operatives feeding us intel and supporting our mission, but ultimately when we go to bed at night no one else can answer the question “How did I do today?” Did I get any closer to accomplishing my chosen mission, whether that mission is an assignment is for the day, a short-term milestone, or related to life-long goals?


So, your mission, if you choose to accept it is to gather a little intel, get curious and answer these questions:

  • Am I taking calculated risks that move me forward?
  • Who is my strongest supporter?
  • Who is my most threatening menace?
  • How can I eliminate or lessen the impact of this person?

Terri Lee Cooper MSc. RSW