The Art of Risk-Taking

“Freedom” by Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

— — The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

The first four lines of the poem The Road Not Taken fairly represent a matter we have to deal with every day: decision making.

We make decisions every day, most of them may seem irrelevant, but a few are not. They represent the way we live and where we are heading to. On them depend what we do and, consequently, our entire lives.

But, this is not a problem, right? We usually just take the easier alternative or the one we think we should.

Should? Based on what? Feelings.

We don’t often think rationally while making a decision. That is tough and costly. Do you know how many do we take daily? That would be unbearable. It’s completely normal to take this approach. However, all decisions are not equally important, and we deal with them in the same trivial way.

To take a better approach, we just need to answer two simple questions.

What is the worst thing that could happen?

This question aims to get rid of unjustified fear. Why don’t you go and talk with this person you have been wanting to approach for months? Why don’t you start learning to play that instrument you have always wanted to? Why don’t you enroll in this course you are interested in?

So, what is the worst thing that could happen? That you get rejected? That someones ignores you? If you don’t do it you have already been rejected and ignored. Is to fail what stops you? If you don’t do it you have already failed.

Even if there is something reasonable stopping you, here comes the second question.

What is it that you can gain?

It seems like an easy question but is tricky. You can’t know what you will gain. Maybe that person you met end up being your business partner or the new course you are taking is the start of a new career. The possibilities are almost infinite.

The next time you have to make a hard decision, think carefully about this question: what is the risk of taking the risky alternative? And no, I am not talking about what is the risk associated with taking it, I am talking about what you will lose if you don’t take it.

That is called the opportunity cost and is defined as the loss of taking an alternative compared with another one. You may lose nothing directly, but you will lose an infinite number of opportunities.

How Risk Taking Follows this Approach

Let’s analyze the next fragment from The Risk Taker, by Mort Laitner:

“Arlene, I’m thinking about taking a risk.”

Her ears waited for more.

“With your vast experience, why do people take risks?” I asked.

Arlene held her tongue in thought, scratched the top of her head and slowly enunciated these words. “Here’s why I take risks: because I don’t want to end up in a nursing home or in a pine box with the I-wish-I-had-done-that look stuck on my mouth. When I walk into an old age home and look at those “senior citizens” I see faces scrunched up as if a lemon wedge was sutured to their lips. Those folks took few risks. They led a safe bitter life filled with fear and hesitation. They squandered life’s opportunities. There are no second chances.”

-There are no second chances-

It may be risky, but you only live once. Do you want to spend your next 30 years working on something you hate? Do you want not to pursue your goals because you are too busy or because you think you are unable to achieve them? Is that the life you want?

It is not the life anybody wants, but it is the life most people have. What you can lose by not taking action, by stagnating yourself, by choosing the comfortable way, can’t be rationally justified. You can’t justify not living the life you are supposed to have. And this approach requires action.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

— Albert Einstein

If you ever encounter a branching into unfamiliar territory, consider what your life will be like years from now if you decide not to pursue it. Will you regret it, or will you be happy with your decision?

The Art of Risk-Taking

This approach to risk-taking is not about taking always the most risky, uncomfortable decision. It is a mindset that helps us analyse rationally the real consequences of our acts and take decisions based on logic rather than fear.

Risk taking is the art of choosing wisely

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