Yeah, I’ve lost that. I used to have it. Now? Gone.
Me ten years ago: Yes, I am going to go Rollerblading in traffic! In Manhattan. At rush hour.
Me on Saturday morning: No, I do not want to climb up that six feet of embankment…overlooking a sheer drop to the ocean…that is marked with a sign warning me of possible death.
I did it anyway, but only because I’m stubborn.
Me: I think my nerve took off when I got seriously injured. It proved I’m destructible.
R: You were always destructible.
Me: Before, “destructible” was theoretical.
R: Only to you. Normal people know they’re destructible without having to prove it.
That’s a valid point. Maybe I just got lucky all those years, not getting killed and so on, pushing an envelope that didn’t need pushing.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
– G.B. Shaw
I’d like to have my nerve back, but, in hindsight, that particular nerve was definitely tied to willful obliviousness to risk, mostly physical. You can’t be courageous and think a lot. The thinking will get you in trouble, without exception, whether it’s stepping off into the void of actual air (trapeze) or into the void of the unknown (in my case, writing and not corporate life).
If you remain rational, you remain cautious. There isn’t a way to think through to a successful outcome on anything you haven’t tried. You can see it in the distance maybe. You can state a goal, have a plan even. But you can’t taste it yet. You can’t know that you won’t fail or fall. Your mind and, likely your parents, will remind you – with the best intentions – of the likelihood of risk ending in broken bones.
Here’s my Monday morning calculus on risk:
- Which risks are needless? Recreational risk is optional. Changing your behavior to save your marriage or changing your career to save your sanity are different. Taking someone’s word for the hot stove is probably fine but staying in a dead-end job that you hate are too different categories that deserve different consideration. Decide what’s actually important to you. Be smart.
- How risky is it actually? Get a second opinion: maybe you are safe and you’re just risk-averse or just used to your current situation. Maybe you just like standing right side up on solid ground but you’ll have a safety net and health insurance.
- Mitigate risk where you can. Bike helmets? Yes. Vaccines? Yes. Full-body scans every month or cryogenic freezing after death? Ummmm…
- Related: see the small. Build up to it. Take the first steps first. Focus on the next step in front of your foot. Get in shape for the big risk and when it comes, it’ll only be the final step in a series of small, daily steps.
- Figure out how much risk you think you can stomach. Risk a little more than that.