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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Are You a Risk Taker?

"... risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing and becomes nothing.... Chained by his certitudes, he is a slave, he's forfeited his freedom. Only the person who risks is truly free." Dr. Leo Buscaglia My life has presented me with many risks. Some risks I took during my wilder days (such as riding in cars with drunk friends and taking dares to perform stupid, dangerous stunts) were immature and very foolish. The pressure to appear macho during maturation is strong for the American male, for he feels a boost in masculinity by appearing fearless and bulletproof. Many young males, especially, believe a risk-taking, rebel image will increase their attractiveness to the opposite sex and brand them as tough hombres to their male rivals. Risks can lead to dreadful consequences though, and I, for one, feel lucky to have lived through my early years without being seriously injured or killed in a risk-taking adventure. As I continue to mature, I realize many risks are foolhardy and will do nothing to better my character. I see the importance of analyzing a risk before taking a potentially harmful leap. This is not to say I still don't make my share of risky, possibly harmful leaps, but I try to minimize the chance of negative consequences by avoiding tempting danger with careless, risky behaviors. Unfortunately, the changes I have made in risk taking have often resulted after a bad personal experience. I admire those who are much more logical and who use much more forethought than I. That said, here are some things I have done in the past that I don't do now because of the potential bad resulting from the risk involved: 1. I do not drink and drive. I still go out occasionally and drink, but I do not drive while drinking. 2. I do not gamble large amounts of money. I feel so bad after losing with nothing to show for my money spent. 3. I do not speed. Money for a ticket is so needless. Speeding is dangerous and I have the time now to arrive later than expected. 4. I do not possess a gun. Self-defense seems to be the best reason for owning firearms, but I can relate many personal stories of accidental shootings. 5. I do not own or ride a motorcycle. If you do, fine, but I am too clumsy and I can be inattentive at times. I want an airbag and a better chance in an accident if the other person is at fault. 6. I do not praise dare-devil behavior. Jump the grand canyon if you wish, but if you die in the effort, you are not my hero, just a stupid risk taker. 7. I do not smoke. How can smokers afford the bad habit and how can they not know the potential dangers to themselves and to others? 8. I do not befriend thugs and dangerous criminals. I want them to reform but I refuse to join them and risk my lawful reputation. So, why did I use Dr. Buscaglia's quote to introduce an article that contains content condemning some risks? I used the quote because I believe Dr. Buscaglia is specifically referring to risking absolutely "nothing"as being behavior that leads to becoming "nothings" in life. We all know zero characters. The Beatles referred to such a person in the song "Nowhere Man." Lennon and McCartney wrote: "Nowhere man, please listen. You don't know what you're missing. The world is at your command." Some of the best jobs and relationships in my life have been the result of accepting challenging risks. These risks appeared first as blips on my personal radar, then increased in importance after I recognized them as potentially positive experiences, experiences that would increase my knowledge or worth, and possibly open doors to a better life. And, the risks did just that--they gave me the benefit of more freedom in my life. I hope to remain a risk-taking person. I hope never to stand still. As an opportunity arrives (often unexpectedly), I will weigh the risks and the benefits. I feel sorry for those who have already risked and lost, but my hope is that they will learn from their experiences and emerge as freer individuals, more savvy and more prepared to run the carefully plotted course.
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