Thursday, August 22, 2013

Taking Risks

The Human Life

“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you. Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” 
William Jennings Bryan

Fishermen: This profession consistently ranks among the world’s most-dangerous professions.
Photo Credit & Source: Forbes
Although it might not be comforting news to some, life is full of risks, some intentionally taken, others not. Some people are risk-takers and thrill seekers, while most are risk-averse, looking to avoid risks at all costs. It’s a fallacy to think that one can avoid all risk; even if it were possible it would be a life devoid of any interest. Some would consider this boring.

Activities that have long been considered traditional such as raising a family and going to work carry some risks. Getting married and having children is a type of risk, as is changing jobs or careers. You might marry the “wrong person”; you might have kids who do not work out according to your plans and expectations. Your job might be lacking in meaning, boring, a dead end. When considering jobs, however, there are professions that are considered high risk, including the following in America, says a Forbes article:
  1. Fisherman
  2. Loggers
  3. Airplane pilot
  4. Farmer and rancher
  5. Mining machine operator
  6. Roofer
  7. Sanitation worker
  8. Truck driver
  9. Industrial machine repairman
  10. Police officer
The list might surprise some people, since many of these professions do not pay high salaries and yet they are highly risky in terms of fatalities. And, yet, many individuals, chiefly men gravitate toward such professions and enjoy them. For such men it’s not that they enjoy risk but, rather, they enjoy such professions and risk is a part of their job.

Then there are individuals who are on the other extreme—they like risk as a way to prove themselves. Not surprising, it is overwhelmingly men who engage in risky actions, whether as a profession or as a sports activity. Why are some men attracted to risk? Gad Saad, a professor of marketing at Concordia University, says that risk-taking is a form of signaling to women. In an article (“Sex Differences in Physical Risk Taking”; July 23, 2013) in Psychology Today, Prof. Saad writes:
Such risk taking serves as an honest signal of a man’s ability to face an assortment of environmental dangers and hopefully come out unscathed. This is why women have a fireman fantasy, and why they are attracted to men who participate in aggressive sports. Of course, this does not mean that all men are more likely than all women to engage in physical risk taking. Recall that it is a biological fact that men are taller than women even though WNBA players are taller than most men (the“Katie Holmes is taller than Tom Cruise” effect). Bottom line: Whether consciously or subconsciously, men take physical risks to impress the ladies (cf. Ronay & von Hippel, 2010)!
This aspect of human nature is unlikely to change with more health-and-safety rules and regulations, or with public lectures on the merits or disadvantages of risk-taking. There will always be a subset of individuals, chiefly young men, who will take risks that others think as foolish. For some it’s about adventure and thrills, but for many others, like firefighters and police officers it’s chiefly about serving the public interest, doing good for humanity. There is also another aspect at work here: a strong sense of individuality.

So be it. Rousseau said: “Every man has a right to risk his own life for the preservation of it.” Which brings me the biggest risk that one can can take in life’s often unpredictable journey: being human. Some of you will understand what Rousseau means; most will not.