Safe is Unsafe, Unsafe is Safe: Managing Risk

One of my favorite episodes of Star Trek Next Generation was Season 6: Tapestry of Life.

When Captain Picard’s artificial heart fails, he is offered the rare opportunity to go back in time and fix the mistake that led to his demise. Yet by changing this, it completely altered his life and career in a direction that he did not expect. He became a low level functionary with little responsibility instead of captain of a starship. So what is the point here besides sharing that I am a Star Trek Fan (For the record, I also like Star Wars and most Science Fiction in general). I think there is a great lesson for many of us.

As stated in the episode:

“Because he never came face to face with his own mortality. It never taught him that life was too precious to squander by playing it safe. His life never came into focus, he drifted with no plan and no agenda. Never seizing the opportunity that presented themselves…..He learned to play it safe & he never, ever got noticed by anyone.“

I speak a lot about differentiation and standing out. Taking risks is important, in fact crucial to move forward. I don’t mean senseless & stupid risk: which are ones that endanger yours or someone else’s life (ie. jumping out of an airplane without a parachute or riding a motorcycle without a helmet, or driving drunk). But you should take calculated risks. The worst thing you can do in life is playing it safe and following what society and what others around you are doing. Then you end up just like everyone else.

More often according to noted psychologists Daniel Kahneman the reality is we tend to overestimate the size of the risks and underestimate our own ability to handle and overcome it. We also miss the cost of not taking action. How many guys regret not asking out the girl or trying for that promotion? To sum it up: No Risk, means No Reward.

This is relevant to investing, to career moves, dating/marriage and life at large. Better to try and have it not work out. At least then, you won’t be wondering what life would have been like if you did not take action.

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Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything!