“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
- Mark Zuckerberg
While the biggest risk here may be the use of a Zuckerberg quote, there’s undoubtedly a thread of truth weaved into his words, which resonate from the timeworn truism that life becomes more meaningful upon the employment of some measure of risk.
Risk is, arguably, becoming more of a lost art than it is a daily philosophy. In the evermore comfortable and secure existence that we find ourselves in, it seems that we have less and less reason to take a life-altering chance on something in the same way that our ancestors would have when they migrated or enlisted or went for broke in so many movie-moment ways.
And so we’re presented with a rather valid question: why take a risk when things are so good? When we have a car in our driveway, a half-paid mortgage, a steady and strong family unit — why bother shaking things up? Even if we’re fresh out of academia and looking upon a scintillating yellow brick road of success — why deviate?
Many of us will choose to throw caution to the wind, to pack a bag and board a plane, to resettle or commit to a tantalizing prospect for change. For those who do take the leap of faith will be unable to resist the call of the unknown, but, again, what’s there to be gained from this venture?
“Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.”
- Swami Vivekananda
It seems, and it can certainly be argued that it is, unnatural for us to live in such consistent comfort, certainty and security — those of us who are fortunate enough to, anyway.
Risk is natural. Displacement is natural, as is deviation, dissolution, and digression — these things are absolutely inconvenient but they’re also inevitable. We know that.
But we also despise stagnation. Whether it comes in the form of lifelong boredom or mere disinterest with a particular endeavor, we fear and dread the possibility of leaving behind an arid and dreary legacy, of not doing the most with ourselves and our potential.
In light of this apprehension, we shine a bright light onto risk. We begin to see it as a possible means to salvation. Again — it could be on a macro, lifelong scale or even on microscopic terms — our investment portfolios, our dating styles, our consumption habits. Risk becomes, and always remains, appealing.
“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” — Paulo Coelho
The beauty of risk lies in its enigmatic and wide-reaching nature — the way that it can permeate into all aspects of our being, changing the very nature of who we are, who we want to be, how we define ourselves and how we make decisions.
Risk carries with it more than just a prospect for loss. It demands a new mode of understanding possibility and of facing the unexpected. Specifically, it prompts us to come to terms with the undesirable.
We may thus be presented with an odd prospect — to accept the losses, not as they come, but before they do. By accepting that something won’t work out — this will minimize the effect of misfortune through our tempered expectations and it’ll relegate us to observing this loss from a higher vantage point of understanding, no longer blinded by surprised disbelief or blurred by mismanaged expectations.
If anything, risk softens the blow of mishappenstance. Sure, it’s no secret that it also exposes us to greater calamity, but not every time and, if we play our cards right, less and less often than we’d expect.
Eventually, we become better and better at it, able to distinguish good risk from bad, worthwhile gambles from senseless chance. We develop an instinct, an intuition that proves a helpful baseline in our decision making.
To blend risk with an awareness of lessons learned when things go south — this is the secret that flows through the timeworn truisms of Einstein quotes and canonical preachings, outlining a golden equation: risk + awareness = eventual success.
For it’s a peculiar but accepted fact that we can skew risk in our favor by being smart about it, by adopting modicums of risk whenever beneficial rather than throwing ourselves at the mercy of chance. Of course, this doesn’t immunize us from anything, but it certainly helps.
There’s no exact science behind it, but there’s something there. The residual awareness that we collect and re-administer for each next step, as if our decision-making resembled a Fibonacci sequence that built itself higher upon each preceding occurrence — this is how triumph is inevitably arrived at.
And, maybe, for the simple fact that risk makes for a better story. Ultimately, it may be safe to say that any risk ends up a win-win proposition — with either a lesson to be learned or a victory to be celebrated.
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