Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Safety Dance

Risk a lot to save a lot.

Risk a little to save a little.
Risk nothing to save nothing.

Words to live by when fighting fire, no question.

But what about other things?

People often talk about the "risk/benefit ratio." As if we can calculate every risk and make a rational decision.

I've been thinking about risk this week, while watching the Olympics.

I love the Olympics.
Some of it, anyway.

I love the concept of people all over the world who train to become the very best at what they do, getting together with other people from all over the world, who do the same thing. Temporarily, at least, a culture of excellence, instead of the usual excuse-making. A place and time where there is not that absurd popular habit of whining and complaining.

In every Olympics I've seen, there have been those moments where an athlete has stepped up and done something unexpected, overcome adversity, and, for a brief shining moment, brought the world's attention to the power of sheer heart.

Mary Lou Retton comes to mind.

A couple of nights ago, in one of the qualifying heats of one of the swim events, there was a young woman who mystified the commentators by swimming her heart out, even though she only needed to place to get into the next round. While they were questioning why on earth she would work so hard, instead of "saving herself" for the finals, she broke the world record.

Gotta love it.

It got me thinking.

People put a lot of thought into that risk/benefit thing. As if the optimal situation would be no risk, all benefit.

I don't think so.

I think that without risk, there is no benefit.

It's about risk. Taking chances. Giving it all you've got. Putting yourself out there.

And yeah.

Going for the Gold.

You can't win if you don't play. If you want something, you have to go get it- ain't no one going to give it to you.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

"Safe" may not be the best place to live after all.

A paradox, that.

Emergency services personnel frequently tell each other to "stay safe."
And they mean it.

Perhaps because they, more than anyone, know there's no such thing.


Lori Skoog said...

Hilinda...found you through Spartacus. I really like what you wrote today. I have been watching the Olympics a lot and feel quite the way you do. Especially like the comment "if you don't play you can't win." I have to say tho, in some non Olympic situations, getting there can be just as important as the win. Please read Cayote Road today...she too has great words about this topic.
Lori Skoog

hilinda said...

Hi Lori- nice to meet you.

Sometimes, getting there IS the "win."


CoyoteFe said...

Greetings Hilinda -

Your thoughts on risk would shame some people I know.

hilinda said...

coyote- what do you mean by that?

CoyoteFe said...

Greetings, Hilinda -

My bad. I didn't see your question.

What I meant was that you made two points that raise the bar higher than many are willing to stretch.

1. Risk/reward: Unless the reward FAR exceeds the risk, many are not willing to chance it.

2. (Disconnected with the first point) You deal in the risk of lives, while other deal in the risk of things. Your risks make the others' pale in comparison.

In the business world, there are whole organizations dedicated to mitigating risk. While some of the targeted risk relates to safety, the VAST majority of the effort is focused on on the health of the organization (Read that: Asset and legal (more about assets) risk.

In that realm, succeed, and you are a hero. Fail, and you have poor judgement. A try is worthless - period. Not an environment that builds strength.

Hope I make sense ...

Allen MacNeill said...

Many, many years ago, when I was much younger (and the ice much softer), I was a competitive figure skater. I remember falling a lot, and getting really frustrated by it. I would try a particular jump or spin, and would catch an edge (or lose it), and slam down on the ice. Sometimes this would be followed immediately by me pounding on the ice with my fists (ouch!).

And so I apologized to my teacher, and asked what I was doing wrong. And he said,

"If you aren't falling down, you aren't skating hard enough."

...which later I learned was a whole philosophy of life, one that I have tried to live up to, and (of course) sometimes failed to live up to. But if you aren't falling down, you aren't...well, you get the idea.

hilinda said...

Allen- You were a figure skater?? Wow. Learn something new every day.

I learned to roller skate practically before I learned to walk. When we moved here, my class went to ice skate, and I spent almost the entire time clinging to the wall because the first time I fell on the ice, it hurt!!

The next time I went, I spent the entire time purposely falling down. I figured if I got good at it, then I didn't have to worry about it ever again.

hilinda said...


Yes, you made sense.

Raising the bar higher than most people are willing to try is pretty much what I try to do all the time.

Not for what I expect or want other people to do, but for my own performance. If I'm going to do something at all, I'm going to be the best I possibly can, and that best is going to be better than most people can imagine.

I may not always get there, or at least not right away, but it's where I'm heading.

I could reduce the stress in my life a lot, I'm sure, by lowering my standards for myself. But what's the point in that?