What part of your dream life are you shying away from because it seems too uncomfortable and dangerous? What's the price you are already paying by playing small? What's the real risk you take by playing a bigger game and pursuing a passion within your capability to pursue? How do you manage the risk instead of avoiding it altogether?
Tania and I are mountain people. This past weekend, she and I were standing at the top of a ridge near Kickinghorse in Golden. We'd just spent a bunch of time huffing our way up a skin track and were ready to pounce on a slope of pristine powder with only a single track cut by our ski guide.
This was the second run of the day and we were skiing cautiously on early season slopes thinly masking all manner of ugly stumps and sharp boulders. The snow was so light and airy that there was no princess-and-the-pea affect: there were only a few bumps in the surface warning of danger below. Tania hit a large random boulder, flipped mid-air and crashed head-first into a second randomly-placed rock.
Many tragic events seem obvious, predictable and avoidable in retrospect.
Our brains are set up with a strong cause and effect bias and most of the people I know have a very strong internal locus of control. It is difficult, and more than a little frightening, to accept idea that a lot of what goes on in our worlds is random and outside of our control even as we develop narratives to the contrary after the fact. "I should have seen that coming", but of course I don't see a lot of things coming. One of my greatest anxieties is getting blindsided by some horrible occurrence.
It's just not possible to anticipate every danger and hazard.
I've been asked many times over the years how I could still go climbing, mountain biking and backcountry skiing when I know the risks and have a community of family members, friends and clients I am responsible for. I've had more than one friend perish during these same pursuits, but ignoring the call of the mountains and wild nature would be to play small and constained and deny my own nature. I know many more people who have died no where near a mountain.
Living is risky. We mitigate our risks by choosing objectives carefully, managing the timing of our ascents and descents and making liberal use of mountain guides. We make our choices and then we pay prices if the prices have to be paid. Sometimes the bills are expensive when they come in. Sometimes the choices lead to super-pleasurable unforeseen bonuses.
To acknowledge the very existence of the "random box" means that we accept the significant role that luck plays in our lives and business affairs, especially in complex situations with many moving parts. In simple situations, many of our choices and actions come from the "talent box". There is a more direct 1:1 relationship between what we do and what happens. Eventually, if we are conscientious learners, we develop better judgement about what works and does not work and we take on bigger, more complex challenges. This leads more often to results we like, as we learn to hack the random box and maximize our chances of something good occurring. It's uncomfortable and scary getting blindsided, but it's not all bad. There are many good things that also come from the "random box".
Talent and judgement mix with good and bad luck to create our results.
After a super bad headache, a tough night with a sore neck and a good massage the next day, Tania was good to go. She drew a card from the random box and was ultimately lucky. The cost was relatively cheap. It could have been much worse and just might be some day. Playing small to reduce or avoid risk may well lower the chance of something bad happening but it also reduces the possibility of something really good happening. We hit a lot of really great powder on this trip which we'd've missed by staying in-bounds at a resort or home. Premium experiences and results require bolder choices and careful management. And sometimes these arrive with unpleasant emotional and physical costs. Risk is the price we pay to play a bigger game and live the dream.
Don't be reckless and don't forget to live.