Chapter 04 – The Risks We Take

The Risks We Take

What risks do you take every day?

Did you wake up today, and had all your body parts intact?

If the answer is yes, consider yourself lucky.

Not all of us did.

Consider the bed you sleep in “ground zero” and for the sake of example we will say that it is “safe”… What happens when you decide to get out of bed?

Risk taking and risk management – that’s what happens.

Literally, everything you do from the moment you get out of bed has some level of risk to it – if you thought of it before or not.

What is the difference between Relative Risk and Absolute Risk?

So we are on the same wavelength, let’s define two kinds of risks:

1) Relative Risk – this is what you do every time you do “something” and it has some semblance of risk.  For example, I am writing this flying at 30k feet.  There is a very small chance that the plane will not make it to its destination…

So, am I crazy to be flying?

Well, perhaps.  However, if we treat every relative risk as an absolute risk, we will stay indefinitely in bed, in our “ground zero” and worry about moving away from it.  There are also great risks in staying bed ad infinitum as well.

To read about what can happen when you start thinking too much about what could happen, see Howard Hughes’ life – going from taking every known risk to taking no risks at all

2) Absolute Risk – this risk is not subject to chance.  While there is a small likelihood of the plane I am on not to reach its destination – there is an absolute risk that if the engines stop working, gravity will pull us towards the center of the Earth.  This is not an option, there is no small chance of the plane floating or a case where the plane just stops in midair.  Accept it as an absolute risk that is non-negotiable.

Why should we define these risks, you ask?  Well, in the human experience, we tend to speak nonchalantly about both risks, interchanging them, mixing-and-matching them without giving it much thought.  Moreover, in making logical arguments, listening to advertising pitches or just having a conversation/argument with someone – knowing the difference is key.

For Example:

Mom: Do your homework or you will never amount to anything…

Kid: Look at what happened to Bill Gates, he was a drop-out…

In both statements, our debaters are trying to convince one another of their point – yet, they are both using relative risks examples, while positioning them as absolute risks.

Why did I start the Examined Life blog with risks and their kinds?  To begin understanding what is all around us – we must develop a lexicon/taxonomy that is very precise.  Otherwise, we will have situations like the mom and kid talk to/at each other, yet, the fundamentals of their arguments are flawed.  We surely don’t want to have a flawed examination of life…

Say that you are a sea captain, and you traveled the same route on the ocean many times.  Your GPS is updated and all it shows is open ocean in front of you.  That still has a risk of new terrain emerging from the sea that is simply not known yet.  You are still taking a risk that something WILL be in your way, like a new island forming.

Click here for Chapter 5

References and Quotes:

“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

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