Some Thoughts


28 January 2019

Risk is an odd thing - we often think we must avoid it at all costs and yet we never can - all we do is choose which risk to take.

I love this in the introduction to British Canoeing’s safety guidance.

Respect and admiration is due to those who, knowing their sport and their abilities, push back the frontiers of feasibility by tackling ever harder grades of water; or choose to explore in wild and lonely places; or undertake solo paddling be it in one of these contexts, or simply to find their own level of self-fulfilment.

We do not agree with those who regard the occasional inevitable loss of life in these circumstances as disastrous for the sport. Nor that those who choose these outlets – knowing what they are at – are acting in an irresponsible manner. Far from it. They are keeping alive, in fact they are furthering, the essential spirit in mankind to advance against the elements.

I also really enjoyed recently reading Deep Survival which is a real insight not just to the drama of extreme situations - but in fact what we live for every day.

One of the main things I got from this is that while I choose to take some risks in life what I want to avoid is the stupid mistakes becoming disastrous.

I do not want on my tombstone “Here lies an idiot.”

We all make mistakes

Our failures are so common that it’s easy to write them off as inexperience, stupidity, or inattention. Most people operate in an environment of such low risk that action, inaction, or the vicissitudes of brains have few consequences. The energy levels, the objective risks are low. Mistakes spend themselves harmlessly and die out unnoticed instead of growing out of control.

When driving a car, you make about four hundred observations every two miles you travel. You have to make about forty decisions. And you also make one mistake.

Much of safety is giving yourself the margin for error. So that when things go wrong disaster is not immediately inevitable.

This is true in adventurous sports such as kayaking, but also in business.

Know that mistakes will happen and plan for them.

Take risks where it is worthwhile - either to give a new business a chance to flourish - or to do the things that make life worth living.

Know that we all take risks all the time - pay attention to the boring risks like smoking, drinking, fast food, lack of exercise, and climate change.

Also everyone dies in the end - what matters is the fun and the love before then, and the legacy we leave behind.

Design business processes not to eliminate risk - but to reduce the damage mistakes will make.

Do the sports you love, but don’t imagine you are perfect - take the safety gear and when you can stay in a team.