The Risk of Not Taking Risks

 The Risk of Not Taking Risks


Anyone who knows me knows that I calculate danger everywhere and all the time. Risk averse is the nice way to put it. Eye rolling and chuckling is another way to go.

            I can’t help it, though – I was born this way. I never wanted to bungee jump or drive a motorcycle (but give me a little credit at least because I’ll ride a roller coaster so long as I am strapped in tight and I’ll happily jump on a bicycle with a helmet). That was the nature part of the equation; the nurture part must be inextricably linked to growing up with three brothers, at least two of whom lived wild child existences, giving me a front row seat to the fallout. Working as a pediatrician didn’t help alleviate my innate cautiousness much either, because my office often felt like an injury parade. So for my whole life, I have been deeply steeped in the consequences of risk taking,

            It might sound like a gift to be wired to steer clear of danger, and in some ways it is. But for a long time now, there has been a growing argument in favor of taking risks, at least calculated ones. When it doesn’t harm you, risk taking builds character, creativity, and confidence. It prepares kids for unanticipated challenges, or at the very least a less sterilized, manicured version of the world. As a result of this growing common knowledge about the value of a little dose of danger, spaces like Mike Lanza’s Playborhood and public adventure playgrounds have popped up across the globe in recent years.

            Don’t get me wrong: the notion of kids crawling around on rusty planks with exposed nails sends shivers up my spine and I will never get behind jumping off of a roof onto a trampoline below. Don’t even get me started on no-brainer dangers like texting while driving (which 2/3 of all parents do, at least occasionally). But all that said, in a world filled with risks – from those we know to those we cannot even imagine – there are some that should be taken. We can all benefit from pushing ourselves slightly outside of our comfort zones, treading in imperfect places, and especially opening our minds to new people and ideas.