The Biggest Risk! — Quotidian — 418

(Transcript of video originally posted on 17 Sep 2022)

A movie titled “Marudhamalai”, and Vadivel does this in that movie! “Risk Edukkaradhellaam Enakku Rusku Saappidaramaadhiri!” So, I like that scene, I have used that dialogue myself many times, but there is a fundamental flaw that I see there, in what he says… If one is going to equate “risk taking” to “rusk eating”…, do you realise that if it is going to be that easy, it is no longer a risk for you! How should risks be, actually? Remember the Vikram movie? The policeman who lost his wife says, “The underpart of my foot… will sweat!” That is the kind of unnerving fear you are supposed to get. THAT is a risk. Not when he can do it as easily as eating a rusk! Let’s see!

Namaste! Four hundred and eighteen! The Biggest Risk! We were talking about risks, and we even quoted the great Vadivel! What is the biggest risk, and what are the angles to consider? Is risk-taking important? Having decided to take a risk, how do we get started? Let’s have a look!

I bumped into this book… And, this is one of, probably four books that we are going to encounter today! Interesting books, each of them! This was called, “Failed It! How to turn mistakes into ideas and other advice for successfully screwing up!” by Erik Kessels. It is a pretty short book.. I enjoyed the book. And, what was more interesting than the book itself was the table of contents! This was the third page in the table of contents. Two main chapters. Fail to follow the rules. Fail to find inspiration. Only later did I notice the capital letter! I started reading it differently, the way the author had intended it to be read! Fail, to follow the rules! Fail… to find inspiration! Catch my point?!

Look at this scene… A pretty common scene in villages and towns in India. The tightrope walker. I will ask you two questions: WHO is being observed by everybody? Who has the attention of EVERY bystander? And, the second question: WHO is taking a risk!? The three people standing on the ground below.. The one guy balancing himself up on the rope.. Who has all the attention? Who’s getting noticed? So, there is a very clear lesson there! If you want to get noticed in this noisy world, where everybody wants to get noticed, you HAVE to take a risk. You HAVE to go out on a limb.

Here is another book I encountered. Yes, .. admittedly, an interesting title! Put your ass where your heart wants to be! — by Steven Pressfield. A very famous author. His most recent book. In this book, he talks about a Greek mythological concept called Muses. These Muses are like Santa Claus, he says! The Muses are nine different “angelic goddesses”… From Greek mythology. The daughters of Zeus, the God of Gods. Each of them is supposed to come and sit on your left shoulder and inspire you. Art. Science. Speaking. Music. Dance. A goddess for each of the creative performing arts. Only if their kind eye rests on you will be able to flow — is the belief. Steven Pressfield says, these Muses, they are actually floating around. At least that is how I would like to look at them. Flying! High up! And, they see you. Your desire. Your need. And, they come, for a dive. They come closer, and they observe. It is okay if you miss the occasional off-day. But, they are looking for consistency, without losing motivation and consistency and passion.. Do you turn up? Do you keep attempting? Are you leaning forward? Are you taking risks? That is what they will observe, he says! It is okay even if you screw up, but do you take the first step with a “devil may care” attitude? That is what they will observe! And, that is their trigger. Just like Santa Claus has a good-boys list and a good-girls list, exactly like that, these Muses float around and alight on the shoulders of people who take those calculated risks, he says. So, put your ass where your heart wants to be. It is not enough to desire something… Get there! MOVE there! That is the message in that book!

Here is the third book of the day! Steal like an Artist — by Austin Kleon. We have met him earlier. He comes up with a very unique concept called Digitalisation. This world is hollering at the top of its voice “Digitise, Digitise, Digitalise…” but we forget something key along the way. When we say “Digitise, Digital”, we immediately conjure up images of networks, dots, nodes, zeroes, ones, floating neurons, connections… but, that’s really not the case!

When you zoom out, I am telling you, THIS is digital! What? Hand? Fingers? Yes! If you go to the dictionary, and visit the oxford languages website, and search for digit, … where does that word come from?

If you go digging you will notice that there is an origin for this word in Latin. Digitus is the original word and it actually means Finger. Touch. Feel. Create. Use your hands and fingers. It seems Austin Kleon, a great artist, an author, and a speaker also, he has two desks. He has an analog desk as well as a digital desk. Analog? What does that mean? No computer, no electronic items, no digital screens. Do. Try. With fingers. Get dirty. Tear stuff. Paint. Muddy up. And on the other side, there is a digital screen. Why this difference? He comes up with a very beautiful reason for that. He says, “Thanks to undo! Thanks to Grammarly perhaps! Thanks to Photoshop! Thanks to all these powerful tools. Nowadays, they also have AI injected into them. Thanks to all these tools, you simply don’t need to actually make mistakes.. You realise you are making a mistake very soon, in fact, the computer corrects these mistakes for you without even asking you these days!

And so, that little little doll, that beautiful little doll of an idea, before it takes its first breath, we muffle it, we mummify it. We choke an idea, it becomes a stillborn baby, because? There is no scope for making mistakes and following through. Where all does this mistake take us down its random erroneous path? Shall we see? No options! So, get away from the digital world, says Austin Kleon, in this beautiful book.

Go to the animal kingdom. This is a common scene. If you watch Discovery Channel, you will see this hunt at least once a day! That amazing gazelle, being chased by that cheetah. Most of the times, the cheetah wins. In fact the cheetah has the highest kill percentage, it seems. If I were a lion, and I went for a hunt, only one in six hunts ended up with a kill. The lion. But, the cheetah? One in two! Fifty percent! But, DID YOU KNOW, everytime the cheetah took off, on that breathtaking chase, seventy miles per hour it seems, top speed, but for how long, just thirty seconds… for if it continues past thirty seconds, its heart will explode and it will die. So, if you think about it… look at the cheetah! To not die of starvation, it risks dying because of the exertion of the hunt! Be like the cheetah!

I saw another book too. The Upside of Uncertainty. Everybody will ask you this question. By default. What’s the worst that could happen?! It is a good question, actually. Why? Because, when you ask that question, you would realise you are not fearing the act itself, but you are fearing what the others will say, what the repercussions, what the fall out after the half-done act might be! You are not afraid of the act itself! But it is all about side-effects and outside-world commentary! That is what we fear more! So, when you start asking those questions, why are you afraid, why aren’t you starting, why aren’t you taking that risk, and when you will realise you are not actually fearing that thing, you are fearing something else associated, you may be attracted to take that risk! And, he asks us to ask ourselves another question too! Hey, What’s the BEST that could happen? Weigh them! Why be caught in a negative mindset obsessing only about what’s the worst that could happen? Why not see what’s the best that could happen too?!

Alright, so, you have decided to take the risk. Here are a few ideas to get started. The first one is from that famous blogger, author, celebrity, Tim Ferriss. He calls it the Coffeehouse Challenge. Do you have a Starbucks nearby? Or, an Only Coffee? Or a Kumbakonam Degree Coffee outlet? Head out there! Order your stuff. And… look at the person who is serving you straight in the eye! And ask for a ten percent discount. Tim Ferriss! Not my idea! What’s the reason? Why is he suggesting something so odd? Go out on a limb. Be irrational. And get used to it. Because, when you enter the domain of risks, you may have to do many things similar to this! Get used to this!

Stanford’s Design School folks propose something like this. Do you remember this scene? From The Psycho movie — the Alfred Hitchcock thriller movie. The famous shower scene. Why is she almost hysterical in this scene? Why is her face twisted in tension? Well, yes, there is a murderer just behind the shower screen, with a knife. But, even that wouldn’t have been necessary. All you needed was to set the shower to hot water, and mistakenly stand under the shower when the cold water in the pipe hadn’t been drained yet! THAT is enough to contort your face like this! So, the Stanford Design School uses this as an example of what you can try at home! Take a cold shower! If you are from a cold locality, you dread that cold shower! But, it is actually only those three or four seconds. After that, cold water or hot water doesn’t really matter for the body! But, those three seconds… Get over them! The Stanford guys say, “Become comfortable with being uncomfortable!” Listen to that! Become comfortable with being uncomfortable! What a beautiful lesson!

If you look at this guy, I am thinking this is the best way to actually go through that act. Whatever you were dreading, whatever you were wondering whether to start or not, this is the right way.. Look at what he is doing. He is focusing on the process. There is that lady in front of him, spinning in a wheel. She can’t even move. She shouldn’t move! Because, this guy is blindfolded, and he is going to throw throwing knifes at that lady, and just miss! Impalement art! Think about this guy. Will he be able to open his blindfold to peek at whether he is doing it right? NO! Will somebody be giving him feedback? A little to the left, a little to the right? No! The audience is shouting! Some of them shout, “Oh my god, careful, don’t hurt her!” Probably some of them shout, “Yes! Drive it straight into her!” So, there is cacophony everywhere! What is he focusing on? He is not even getting feedback about how he is doing, but he has to throw ten knives! So, he is focusing only on the process! What am I feeling when I throw this? How does my hand move? How does the knife make that sound, that whizzing sound when it passes past my ear? How is my hand after I have thrown? How are my feet planted? Have I moved them at all? Focus on the process! That is the best way to go through a risky situation!

Take a violin, for instance. What is music?! If the violin were doing nothing, it is just a straight line. A flat line. But, when a bow is played over it, ….. (Vivaldi streaming…) That is music! This waveform teaches you something beautiful, doesn’t it? A climb. A fall. Loss. Profit. Some downs. Some ups. You cannot create music without them both! Do you get me! Anything you want to consider doing, there is risk! It is never a case where one of the options has no risk, and the other is risk-laden. To do anything at all, is a risk. to not do anything at all, could be a bigger risk!

Thiruvalluvar, in the 461st Kural, says, beautifully:- You are going to start something? Fine! Check first, what you are going to lose because you do that. Then, check, what you may gain, because you do that. And, after everything has settled down, what is the income you are going to get, what is the eventual benefit you are going to get, look at that too. After analysing and weighing these three, take the decision, and move on.

We had this as our title:- What is the Biggest Risk. Seth Godin answers that. He says, the biggest risk today is not taking enough risks.

So, that brings me to my Closing Thought. According to me, the biggest risk is a slightly different message from what Seth Godin says.. The biggest risk, that double-edged sword, “Should we / Shouldn’t we”. If we are on this side, “No, I didn’t cross the road”. If we are on the other side, “Yes, I have taken the risk, and I have crossed the road.” But, guess what is the biggest risk? To be caught halfway, between this side and that side. The Buddhists often advice about following The Middle Path. But, looks like they haven’t tasted the wrath of the Chennai city traffic! You cannot be two-minded, Once you have decided to do something. Thiruvalluvar again. Ennitthuniga Karumam, Thunindhapin Ennuvam Enbadhu Izhukku! Once you have started, once you have set the ball rolling, there is no looking back. For, most of the disasters, most of the failures that we read about, are because people did not go through.. That missing follow through. Okay, you have decided on something? Well, complete it! See it through to the very end. Go all the way in. Only because people didn’t do that, there have been all those failures. Alright, we will meet the day after tomorrow again, thank you! Namaste!



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Rajendran Dandapani

Rajendran Dandapani


Business Solutions Evangelist at Zoho Corp. President at The Zoho Schools Of Learning.