Risky Business

Risk pays off!

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” That’s how Facebook multi-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg sees it.

Some financial advisors do tempt high-risk investors with high gains… if you want to join the ranks of the bold, maverick money-makers, the math is simple: Risky business = Big profits.

A lot of America’s 10.8 million millionaires and 540 billionaires (as of 2016) will agree with that, citing themselves as living proof. Risky business can pay off. But don’t forget, as Warren Buffett says, the only real risk is not knowing what you are doing. He has, at last count, $80.2 billion to prove it.

Business risk is not really the same as gambling. It takes smarts and wisdom much more than it takes luck. Most of all, you set it up so the most you can lose is only the money that you can afford to lose.

And then, there are the risks some of us take just for the fun of it. Here are three you can try next time you get bored:

  1. There’s nothing like tying a big rubber band to your feet, jumping head-first off a high bridge and staring sure death in the face as the roaring river at the bottom of the canyon rushes up to greet you. Bungee jumping sure feels risky, even if it isn’t.
  2. Or how about the brilliant idea of climbing into a small cage, letting a stranger lower you into the ocean and staring a Great White Shark in the teeth while it swims around like a hungry, beady-eyed kid in a candy store? Shark cage diving will remind you what risky feels like, no matter how safe.
  3. But maybe you would rather try this one. Somebody says, “Here, swallow this. You’ll like it,” or, “Here, take this. Where’s the risk? It’s safe.”
    It’s risky business of another kind when a fish considers a baited hook or a mouse contemplates a cheese-baited trap. Unlike the investor who can only lose money, the risk-taker in number 3 can lose her life in a drug-baited trap.

This week the Jamestown Gazette asks, “How can we help people become more risk-averse in a community baited with addictive drugs?”

Sadly, unwise or unwarned risk-takers do dangerous things that too-often trigger a landslide of unintended dangerous consequences.

If an addict intended to do harm by becoming addicted, it might excuse judging addiction as a moral problem. However, addicts do not set out to harm themselves or others, or especially, to die.

The problem is one of missing wisdom and warning. A dictionary of old proverbs says, “To be fore-warned is to be fore-armed,” which means, “Prior knowledge of possible dangers or problems gives one a tactical advantage.”

People are accountable for their actions, but shame and punishment rarely cure an illness, even if it is self-inflicted. Smokers can’t be shamed out of lung cancer, alcoholics can’t be humiliated out of liver cirrhosis and opioid addicts can’t be disgraced back to health.

Doctors and patients, educators and parents – the whole community – can collaborate instead in treatment, and especially in the best treatment of all, prevention… an ounce of which is worth a pound of cure.

Beware of the risky business around addictive drugs. Sharpen your eyes to see it, lower your tolerance for it and learn all you can to avoid it. Senseless risks pay no profits. If somebody says it’s OK, just don’t swallow it.

Enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut