Redefine Risk : Dare To Live Beyond What You Know

17 June 2012, by A. Cedilla

Risk is bad. Risk is scary. Risk should be avoided. It should be managed.

Dealt with.

Like with insurance — or investments. It says you can in the brochures, where on the very bottom, in small print, it states that the company is not liable for any losses incurred on the part of the policy holder.

When you look up the meaning of risk, you get the following:

1) Risk is the potential that a chosen action or activity (including the choice of inaction) will lead to a loss (an undesirable outcome).
2) It is the possibility of loss or injury

Too much of the time we tend to lump all sorts of risk under one category: To Be Avoided, Especially In This Economy.

But in truth, risk is all about taking chances with all that potential. And the key work is taking.

At the heart of it all, when you choose to take a risk you are wrestling with possibility.

  • You roll the dice on the belief that you can count on yourself getting through no matter what the outcome.
  • You’re betting on yourself eventually being bigger than what you’re thinking of taking on.
  • You’re taking the chance to create a better situation for yourself.

All growth comes from learning, and learning comes from exposure. Real learning doesn’t come form just taking in theory, it comes from real exposure–which entails risks:

Risk to self image.
If you’ve only seen yourself as being this person, this guy who uses X, eats Y, travels to Z, does A, B and C on alternate Thursdays…and you’ve been okay with being that guy, why change?

Why not?

Yes, you only have one life to live, but you’re also all the you’s that you’ve ever been: the 7-year-old you, the 13-year-old you, the 20-year-old you, etc. You live life-times in your life-span. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see who else you could be with your choices?

Risk to assets and resources.
“Oh no, I only have this much, better hold onto it.” *clings ferociously*

You may recall the old story about a certain ingenious trap hunters set for monkeys. The hunters make a hole in a dried gourd and fill it with nuts for bait. It’s only big enough to allow an empty paw entry. If a curious, hungry monkey panics and refuses to let go of the bait, he can’t get loose from the trap. (See: golden handcuffs. Look up the parable about the talents.) Also:

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Helen Keller

Risks to self-knowledge.
Sometimes, even thinking of taking actions that threaten your beliefs — in who you are, what you stand for and what kind of person you are — is enough to shut you down.

But buddy, what you know is what you know. Personally. Individually. And the world is bigger than your experience. You open up to that, you can find out just how amazing life can be living in this time, on this planet, even with everything you see on the news telling you otherwise.

If you’re willing to bet on yourself, answer the following question again and again until you stop flinching:

  • Is this literally going to result in my death?
  • Is this going to result in a fate worse than death?
  • How badly do I want to find out what I can do?
  • How much do I want to find out what happens next?
  • How much am I willing to trust myself to get through what may or may not happen next?

You can’t make any change without risk. The bigger the change, the bigger the risk. And once you’ve rolled the dice, it’s out off your hands anyway, so why twist things up trying to game all the factors? That’s not what risking is about.

People take risks all the time without truly realizing it. When you think of something as normal, pretty soon you don’t think of it at all.

Every time you take the driver’s seat, or ride in a car, you run the risk of an accident, or perhaps being on the road the same time as someone experiencing road rage or driving though an alcoholic haze. You still drive, though. You still get on the bus, or a train, or in a taxi or on a plane. And most of the time you still get to where you want to go.

To further pull the odds in your favor, you take calculated risks. Advice ranges from, ” Figure out how much you can bet without losing your shirt. Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.” to “The greater the risk, the sweeter the victory.”

Oddly enough, not much is said about ‘the bigger the loss.’ So you build structures to absorb risk.

  • You develop additional skills, interdisciplinary cross-pollination from all the you’s you’ve ever been and carry them over.
  • You learn to communicate better, you build strong relationships, you become more responsible financially.
  • You take the plunge, you start something, you place small bets on yourself on a consistent basis, and pretty soon the scary thing you’ve been anxiously approaching is actually under your control.
  • You win. Even if you don’t, you learn something you hadn’t known before and that made you grow.

You take the risk, win or lose, it’s you who chooses, not you who are chosen. You’re not passively waiting for things to happen to you. You take. You hold the reins. You learn something about yourself you weren’t aware of before. You’re putting yourself out there and you’re growing. And growing a bigger you, and thus a bigger life, is worth any risk you care to take.

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