“Use your common sense to reach a conclusion, then move forward.” This advice is from Dr. Benjamin Carson, a paediatric neurosurgeon at John Hopkins Children’s Centre in Baltimore. He seems to think that this is the way we should conduct our lives. A seemingly simple prescription, it is one I hope I applied in making this year’s resolutions.
My two resolutions (as you may or may not recall) are to take more risks and to be “more likeable”. So, four weeks after making these declarations, I am re-evaluating them, and giving myself a report card. A fair assessment thus far would be a C minus on the “take more risks” part of the resolution , and a C in being “more likeable” . Though not failing marks, they are not stellar–but then this gives me lots of room for improvement for the rest of the year.
For now, I am going to address the “risk taking” resolution. I happened across an article called “5 Ways to be a Better Risk Taker” in the February issue of Real Simple magazine. The above quoted Dr. Carson was one of a panel of experts called on to teach us how to become “bolder and braver”. He says that we live in a risk-averse society where people use “alarmist language” to get us to buy an insurance policy for everything from a toaster to a new mattress. His advice: tune it out and use common sense in evaluating the situation.
The one piece of advice in the article I found surprising was this: “be a quitter”. But, when it was explained it made a lot of sense. It came from Jill Heinerth, who is a cave diver and underwater photographer from Florida, and she puts her counsel to good use. She says: “Only an expert risk taker can swim toward a particular goal and arrive within a hairsbreadth of the treasure and then turn around and go home.” In other words, no treasure is worth a foolish risk.
Heinerth advises us to “come up with some golden rules” before any kind of endeavour, and “tell yourself what you are unwilling to tolerate or what will cause you to stop the activity.” In her line of work setting rules has saved her life. As someone whose line of works generally does not put her life on the line, I think that this advice still has merit. If we do not set limits, then we are merely floundering in a sea of uncertainty. Limits give risks a boundary.
Stuntman Darrin Prescott says that he practices his stunts mentally, so that “by the time the actual situation rolls around, I’ve imagined it so many times that it feels old hat.” He says if negative thoughts creep in he starts all over again—imagining only the best outcome. The best outcome is the last thought he has before jumping off a building or setting a car on fire.
Annie Duke is a champion poker player, so when she says not to “put everything on the line” I believe her. She sets money aside to play poker, but risks only a small amount on each game. Duke believes “you can’t take advantage of big financial opportunities (such as a new job or potential investment) if you’re too stretched.” Taking her own advice brought her wins in the World Series of Poker Tournament in 2004 and a National Poker Championship in 2010.
In collating their article, Real Simple had the advantage of calling on the ultimate risk-takers, but they also called on someone from the fashion world for a different take on risks. Jennifer Rade is a stylist and costume designer. While she does not deal with life and death, or huge financial risks— her advice still rings true. Her words of wisdom: “take one risk at a time” resonate outside the fashion world. Rade says “go big but not overboard”. I like this piece of advice. It is not “go big or go home”. Her approach to fashion fits a wider world view.
My risks so far this year have not been breathtaking, but I have taken a few. One case in point: In making a fruit salad to take to a friend’s house I used star fruit. Now this does not seem like much of a risk, but I had never tasted star fruit before—I just knew it looked pretty when sliced. Perhaps it was not ripe, but though on first glance it looked appealing, the taste left me wanting. And just so you know—it turns brown after it sits for a while—so by the time it was served, it looked like dead fruit. But I tried something new—and no one said taking risks always means success!
Next month: I am shooting for a B minus and a B on my report card.