Give Risks the Respect They Deserve — and Take Them Anyway

Photo Credit: Dan Carlson

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get taught a whole lot about risk in school — ever. That’s nutty to me. Every choice we make carries some flavor of risk and how well I understand each one varies tremendously.

A while back, I read a quote on Marc Andreessen’s blog by Aaron Brown, a hot shot Morgan Stanley derivatives trader (aka, guy who takes risks and gets paid a lot of cheddar when he’s right) who was talking about hiring traders:

“What I listen for is someone who really wanted something that could be obtained only through taking the risk, whether that risk was big or small.
It’s not even important that she managed the risk skillfully; it’s only important that she knew it was there, respected it, but took it anyway.
Most people wander through life, carelessly taking whatever risk crosses their path without compensation, but never consciously accepting extra risk to pick up the money and other good things lying all around them.
Other people reflexively avoid every risk or grab every loose dollar without caution.
I don’t mean to belittle these strategies; I’m sure they make sense to the people who pursue them. I just don’t understand them myself.
I do know that none of these people will be successful traders.”

As a kid, I took a lot of risks I didn’t respect. When I was five or six — I’m really not sure — years-old, our family had a big ol’ dumb black lab mixed with hound. His name was Jed. He’d sit and eat the strawberries in Dad’s garden, and he’d rarely bring a ball back to be thrown a second time.

Now, we also had this Radio Flyer wagon. I fell out of that damned wagon so many times that you’d think the things would be banned by now — or maybe I was just a klutz. The point is, when you’d combine Jed and this wagon on a walk, Jed would turn into Super Dog, and run like the devil. We were probably going give miles an hour, but I felt like it was Cruisin’ USA.

Somewhere along the way, we got the idea to graduate from the “safety” of the wagon and see if Jed would turn up the nitro still if I strapped on my roller blades and held his leash.

I decided this was a fun risk to take, took it, didn’t fully understand or respect it, and I ate shit.

Since then, I’ve graduated from risks involving dogs & roller blades. I still take stupid risks every once in a while, but the important ones — relationships, career, health, finance, etc. — I slow down and stare down before I make them.

🎉 🍻 ❤️ — Andy