Anticipating Risks

“Perhaps extreme danger strips us of all pretenses, all ambitions, all confusions, focusing us more intensely than we are otherwise ever focused, so that we remember what we otherwise spend most of our lives forgetting: that our nature and purpose is, more than anything else, to love and to make love, to take joy from the beauty of the world, to live with an awareness that the future is not as real a place for any of us as are the present and the past.” ~ Dean Koontz

It doesn’t seem that 11 years have past since Aron Ralston amputated his arm, five days after he was trapped by a boulder in the beauty of a remote Utah Canyon. Alone with no one knowing his whereabouts, he was literally at life’s brink. The sheer will to experience his future while in extreme danger, now makes for an inspiring life story. A story that could have had a different outcome.

Many of us make (conscious and unconscious) choices about how we want to experience wellness, financial freedom, relationships, adventure, and professional success. And there are people (guides, actuaries, underwriters and extreme sports participants) who meticulously plan and model events and possible outcomes. They prudently assess risk.

Aron Ralston didn’t expect what he encountered. Yes, it was a freak accident yet he planned for his outing poorly. And he nearly lost his life. Aron is an extreme example. In your everyday life, do you adequately (if not thoroughly) consider risks? Do you rethink activities to recognize dependent events that could lead to an extreme event? Do you plan for and anticipate the unexpected?

There are countless ways in which to plan for the unanticipated. It simply takes intentional time and effort. Whether you want to mitigate your fears or fulfill your dreams (a pretty broad range, right?), here are three considerations when planning potentially risky endeavors:

  1. Have conversations with people who have ‘traveled the path you’re considering.’ Learn what their experiences yielded. Factor for unlikely events happening. And plan for risky scenarios, even if they have low probabilities. It’s not always the obvious or likely that manifests.
  2. Prioritize hypothetical situations and gauge how you would logically and emotionally react and respond (there is a difference between the two). Understand how you deal with stress and anxiety. Even after losing 40 pounds in five days and drifting in and out of delirium, Aron Ralston summoned the strength and determination to focus.
  3. Share your well-developed plans with others. As attractive and exciting as ‘soloing’ might be, consider the advantages of partnering with someone. Shared experiences are valuable and memorable, too!

I invite you to reflect on these as you plan business decisions, personal ambitions, and all that is important to you.

17 thoughts on “Anticipating Risks

    • Of course there is, JF. And I am familiar with “Black Swan.” This is why contingency planning is valuable, even if the plans cannot/ do not cover every possible outcome. Appreciate your adding to the thread.

  1. Sound advice Eric for planning ahead and being prepared! I would also add, find the opportunity to have an experience of something like it.
    In other words ….. have a taste first.
    However, there will alway be things that we cannot control and life threatening events that we can never prepare for. What is needed then is a strong sense of self and resilience.
    Val x

    • Sampling is good! As is gradual alignment. To your mention of a strong sense of self and resilience, this (to a measurable extent) is what Aron Ralston summoned. And it was clearly a factor in saving his life. Thanks for highlighting/sharing relevant wisdom, Val.

  2. Having done a lot of climbing in my days I would have to agree whole heartedly with your post. Careful assessment of risk prior to heading out is vital. That includes assessment of one’s own abilities.

    • Adage invocation time: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (or possibly risk mitigation or peace of mind or longevity). 🙂 Appreciate your personal experience and thought sharing, Sue.

  3. Wonderful questions and thoughts with this post Eric. It is strange, but I always will have a plan B and C when I go out…not so much in fear, but knowing that more often than not plans tend to change. As I have gotten older, I am more aware of risks as well ~ but now I even begin to think a little planning is good, but then I realized after reading this post…I do not plan for the catastrophic, and just simple actions prior would be life-saving. Well done.

    • I find it comforting, Randall, that as we get older, we consciously heighten our awareness of many things. Just knowing that I choose to prepare a little more deliberately yields a greater sense of comfort as I embark on new (ad)ventures. ‘In the end’ what will be, will be. We are not as much in control as we believe or would like to think. Stay safe!

  4. Very interesting article, Eric!
    Importantly, each of us to anticipate danger, put into account several possible solutions to our success.
    Not very well, you miser in the dark, without a plan, at least imaginary. Just so you can find the best path to success. Even if the plan does not fit 100%.
    Have a great week-end, Eric 🙂

    • I suspect some of my present perspectives, Stefania, stem from years in the business world where contingency planning was encouraged, if not required. Maybe even from my Boy Scout days… where we drilled to be prepared. Now when it’s a choice, I see the value in planning somewhat more expansively. And why not… we possess greater wisdom and life experience as we age. 🙂

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