Risk

No one likes it.  We like sure things – put x into the system and get y out of it.  Believe me, I’d like nothing more than a guaranteed outcome right now (and one better than the ultimate promise: death and taxes.)

It seems like there is a collective nostalgia for an era when risk wasn’t so much of an immediate presence.  You know, when men wore grey flannel suits and black fedoras and you started at one company and retired from it 30 years later with a pension and a house that was paid for.

Collectively, we’ve got a pretty wobbly sense of risk and how much of it we should have to manage.  Because it seems like we all kind of believe that we should do whatever it takes to get rid of our risks.  We call this risk mitigation strategies when we’re in business meetings and really, anything goes when it comes to getting rid of risk.  The government mitigates risk by pushing it off onto businesses.  Businesses mitigate risk by pushing it down to the individual level.  And us peons at the bottom of this list?  We aren’t big enough to say no, so we just optimistically believe in our ability to skip out on the whole risk thing because we’re that smart, or that lucky, or that good.

We aren’t.

Truth number one.  Risk has always been a factor, we just managed to mask it for a while.  And by “a while,” I mean maybe the ten years between 1954 and 1964.  Starting from our cave-dwelling ancestors, survival has always been a crap shoot.   One unexpected tree root and an ungraceful tumble was all that stood between the biggest, smartest warrior and death by saber toothed tiger.  As we became more agrarian, the risks shifted to locusts and drought.  As civilization has progressed, we’ve pushed progressively harder toward predictability and comfort.  It seems the greedier we get about predictability, the bigger the risks we’ve created.   The more we individually and collectively seek protection from all that could happen, the worse the things are that could happen.  We’ve gone from sticks and stones to IEDs and nukes.  From sweating it out in August to putting the whole damn planet into the microwave.

What if we all (government included) decided to accept that life is full of risks and just get on with it?  If everyone were willing to take on a proportionately-appropriate level of risk instead of trying to heap it on the entity with the least ability to deal with the worst case aftermath?  Wouldn’t it be a lot easier for everyone to manage?  I mean, it isn’t like there is any of us so pretty or so promised that we should be exempt from discomfort.

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Risk

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