To risk or not to risk

September 15, 2010 — Leave a comment


“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” -Goethe

People regularly see risk as something to avoid. Risk for many people is a scary word. Most people would probably describe themselves as non risk takers. The truth is that from the moment we wake up and start making decisions and choices in our day, we are taking risks but we do so based on an assessment of risks and an element of planning in how to be prepared. All this usually takes place without engaging the mind intentionally.

Our culture is largely a risk avoidance one and this is probably contributing to less adventurous lives being lived and fewer people achieving their potential.

I learnt some very important lessons about risk from a book written by someone who has to make life or death decisions regularly in his work.

His name is Dr.Ben Carson and he is a top neurosurgeon. His book, Take the Risk,  begins by describing the decisions that he and his team had to make before deciding whether to proceed with an operation to separate conjoined twins. The stakes were high the risk was huge.

What I learnt from this great book was a series of questions that Dr Carson believes is fundamental to him when facing difficult situations. He states:

“Whenever I face a hard decision or a risky situation in life (personally or professionally), all my thinking, all my analysis, all my planning can be boiled down to four simple questions:”

    • What is the best thing that can happen if I do this?
    • What is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?
    • What is the best thing that can happen if I don’t do this?
    • What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do this?

He says that –  “by the time I’ve thought through these 4 questions, I’ve usually analyzed the risks thoroughly enough to make a reasonable decision.”

This book is a rallying call for living richer lives by learning to identify, choose and live with acceptable risk.

I’ve read that “at the end of their lives more people regret NOT doing things than doing them”. Chances are they didn’t have these 4 questions to help them when they were faced with assessing the risk of doing something or not doing it!

If you want to get the full benefit of Dr Carson’s wisdom then get hold of a copy of Take the Risk.

Wyn Jones


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