Everyone loves the long shot, the horse with the biggest odds to lose, the one least expected to win. We all remember that day at the track. The two-dollar bet on the old chestnut brown with a bigger beard than your aunt Edna that actually came in. She had her shining day in the sun. And she paid 12 to 1. You won $24 dollars and you've never forgotten her, Too Lose La Trek.
But what on earth are we thinking when we gamble? Sure it is fun, exciting, and tantalizing. It is rolling the dice. In life, excitement equals risk. So why do we try so hard to avoid risk on most days?
Since childhood, we are taught to be risk averse. Be careful, we're told. Don't run with scissors. Discretion is good, risk is bad. So why does risk-taking feel so exhilarating? It's such a cruel contradiction.
Then at the same time, why do we pay insurance premiums? Why try to transfer the risk? The risk is exciting. Maybe the insurers and underwriters are the true risk takers. They must love the long shot more than the rest of us. Are they the bookies of our lives, or of our businesses?
There must be something in our DNA, as a species, that urges us to take risk. I can't believe that we are taught to take risk. From a very young age we are curious and danger seeking. Not because we actually want to get in trouble. It's simply that we don't know what we don't know. Who knew flames were hot and could burn your skin? How could I have known that free falling from the top of the fridge tends to leave dents in your head? Gravity hurts. It is hard to measure the impact of gravity when you are crawling across the floor. It is simply not intuitive. Yet the drive to achieve that which is out of reach is so desperately important that we often, in some cases, always, reach beyond our comfort zone, our safe zone. It is no wonder we get burned as often as we do. We must be pre-wired to take risks.
Thank goodness there are mentors, parents, insurers, to counsel us on the risk of our actions or intentions. It is a blessing that persons are willing to counsel us to avoid or mitigate absolute self-destruction. Whether we are willing to heed their counsel is a completely different matter. The fact that we have the opportunity to consider a secondary or alternative action is the main thing. We have the opportunity to reconsider our potential recklessness. If we believe the counsel is fair, reasonable and in our best interest, it is hard not to take the advice. After all, if someone had the conviction to direct you to another option, they probably didn't agree that you were on the most favorable path to begin with.
No one ever corrects your path when you are going the right way.
Perhaps we should shelve our egos and seek out advice more often.
While cashing the long-shot bet is a dramatic climax to a risky decision, choosing the favorite and most likely event usually makes us equally happy and does it more often.
Everyone loves a winner. No one ever dismisses your victory because you were favored to win. Take the sure thing, and be happy you did.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is an internationally recognized enterprise risk management executive with experience in energy, health care, and most recently in the sporting event sectors. She can be reached at email@example.com.
May 1, 2013
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