Life is Risky Business

Scanning my instruments gives me peace as I cruise at nearly three miles above safety of terra firma through billowy and bouncy cumulus clouds. The clouds issue a sinister smile as I enter their mouths and while in their belly I feel almost entirely at their mercy, but for the tenuous grasp of control I derive from my faithful instruments.

Piloting is part knowledge, part experience and part chance. Pilots try to minimize the latter using all within our power, but hurling ourselves at high speeds through the air high above our natural domain is a chancy proposition, no matter how you cut it.

All of life involves risk. Learning to effectively manage risk is a vitally important life skill. Children at a young age learn that if they lean back on a chair, they risk falling. Young adults learn from their peers that if they dare to be different and fail, they will be ridiculed. The calculation of risk versus expected reward is an important one.

The failure or refusal to calculate risks is often at the root of life’s regrets. Don’t be blinded by the expectation of a big result! The bigger results typically come with greater risks.

People exist along a wide spectrum of risk tolerance and they tend to become more risk averse as they grow old. I am often surprised that as many people – especially daredevil boys and tomboyish girls – survive their childhoods. Risk after risk is taken, often for little more reason than to see if it was possible!

Rather than advising against risk taking, I advocate teaching children about assessing and managing risk. My mother always said, “it is better to teach a toddler to use the stairs than to worry about him falling on them.” if you do not let a child take reasonable risks, you will likely stunt his ability to handle risks wisely on his own later in life.

You cannot not take risks, but you can work to keep them at a manageable level. Go beyond your comfort level and you will feel out of control. Take too few risks and you will likely experience the doldrums, where sluggishness reigns supreme.

Whatever your risk tolerance, be sure to actively and consciously manage risk. It should be an active process, not one that works out by default, by rote or by habit. The odds will stack in your favor on occasion, which is another way to describe when the customary risk-reward equation is altered – a rare opportunity you don’t want to miss!

8 thoughts on “Life is Risky Business

  1. J.J.Mc

    I’ve always believed, “no risk no reward”. I appreciate your thoughts on teaching children to manage risk. I also think as we age that risk taking has more of an “experience” counter balance; it can hinder or help depending on if you feel vulnerable. Sometimes as people age change can look like the enemy instead of the next chapter, onward and upward.

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  2. Colin

    I havenoticed that I have become more aware of risk as I got older. I took stupid risks as a child (especially as a teenager), but I was lucky enough to come through it. Now I still enjoy taking risks, but unlike the past there has to be a reason for it! I hope to be able to effectively manage the natural tendency to become more risk averse with age. I have the feeling that there are critical moments with this, and I’m keeping a close eye out for them!

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  3. Mitch

    Your first paragraph described exactly how I felt going home for the holidays (LOL). Thank goodness for instrument training or there would have been no hope of coming out alive!

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  4. Ed Barnes, Sr

    I had the opportunity to pilot over some landscapes this holiday weekend that were breathtaking from above but in actuality are treacherous to cross by land. I couldn’t help but appreciate the risks many took to go west and settle this great country of ours. My risk at hand as a pilot seemed to pale in comparison. No risk, no progress, whether settling new territories or getting your pilot’s training. These are great principles you’ve outlined, sure to help anyone increase their own capacity and lead others to do the same. I really enjoyed this post! Happy New Year!

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  5. I Kearney

    I agree that if you are taking a risk, you should go into it intelligently and as well prepared as possible. You don’t see experienced mountain climbers scaling the high hills without careful planning and the right equipment. I’ve found that when I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone, I’ve had some of the most rewarding and exciting experiences in my life. Taking risks can open your eyes and your world to new things and help develop confidence and courage in future endeavors.

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