- to venture upon; take or run the chance of
- in a dangerous situation or status; in jeopardy:
Babe Ruth was a great home-run hitter; Ty Cobb has the highest career batting average. Interestingly, for batting average, Babe Ruth isn't even in the top 100. When you swing for the fences, you strike out more than when you just try to get consistently get on base.
So are you a slugger or a base hitter? What's your tolerance for risk vs. reward? Employees tend to be base hitters, and entrepreneurs tend to swing for the fences. That's not a hard and fast rule, of course.
The underlying question has to do with your tolerance for risk and desire for higher reward. For all the talk about the high salaries of corporate CEOs, the reality is that most millionaires are self-employed professionals or entrepreneurs. Yet most strike out a few times. "It is not a question of whether you will fail; it is simply a question of when and how."
How much risk are you willing to tolerate for the expected reward? Or, flip it around... how much reward does it take to justify the risk?
There's no right answer. What are the odds that you are going to be successful? Of course, you believe that you have something that makes your odds better than the average. Every successful person has thought that. So have most of the ones who've failed, too!
If you swing for the fences, taking slightly greater risk in your endeavors may be your best choice. If you prefer a consistent batting average, perhaps you should consider lower-risk alternatives for your life’s activities, business and personal.
Again, there's no right answer, but you have to have a realistic idea of the risks involved, and the level of risk you're comfortable with, before you step up to the plate and start swinging.
These days, it seems like everything is risky, and worry itself is bad for your health. The more we learn, the less we seem to know — and if anything makes us anxious, it's uncertainty. At the same time, we're living longer, healthier lives.
The human brain is exquisitely adapted to respond to risk — uncertainty about the outcome of actions. Faced with a precipice or a predator, the brain is biased to make certain decisions. Our biases reflect the choices that kept our ancestors alive.
Still, uncertainty unbalances us, pitching us into anxiety and producing an array of cognitive distortions. Even minor dilemmas like deciding whether to get a cell phone can be intolerable for some people. Our emotions push us to make snap judgments that once were sensible — but may not be anymore.
Risk and emotion are inseparable. Fear feels like anything but a cool and detached computation of the odds. But that's precisely what it is, a lightning-fast risk assessment performed by your brain, which is ever on the lookout for danger.
Because fear strengthens memory, catastrophes such as earthquakes, plane crashes and terrorist incidents completely capture our attention. As a result, we overestimate the odds of dreadful but infrequent events and underestimate how risky ordinary events are. But driving is far more dangerous than flying, and the decision to switch caused roughly 1,000 additional auto fatalities, according to two separate analyses comparing traffic patterns. In other words, 1,000 people who chose to drive wouldn't have died had they flown instead.
Humans are ill-prepared to deal with risks that don't produce immediate negative consequences, like eating a cupcake or smoking cigarettes. As a result, we are less frightened of heart disease than we should be. Heart disease is the end result of actions that one at a time aren't especially dangerous. But repeated over the years, those actions have deadly consequences.
Forget the idea of a risk-taking personality. If there's a daredevil gene that globally affects risk-taking, researchers haven't found it. Genes do influence impulsivity, which certainly affects the risks people take. Men 15 to 25 are very risk-prone compared to same-age women and older people. More importantly, one person's risk thermostat may have different settings for different types of risk.
The word radiation stirs thoughts of nuclear power, X-rays and danger, so we shudder at the thought of erecting nuclear power plants in our neighborhoods. But every day we're bathed in radiation that has killed many more people than nuclear reactors: sunlight. It's hard for us to grasp the danger because sunlight feels so familiar and natural.
Though the odds of dying in a terror attack like 9/11 or contracting Ebola are infinitesimal, the effects of chronic stress caused by constant fear are significant.
The physiological consequences of overestimating the dangers in the world— and revving our anxiety into overdrive — are another reason risk perception matters. It's impossible to live a risk-free life: Everything we do increases some risks while lowering others. But if we understand our biases in the way we manage risks, we can adjust for them and genuinely live a more productive life.
Embrace risk after it has been studied, calculated and assessed; then cherish the rewards for taking those risks that you have managed and lowered to the best of your ability.