Why risk is a good thing

I drove through what seemed like a textbook storm the other night. Uniform walls of water collapsed on themselves like silhouettes of waves. The shards of rain exploded into light as they caught my headlights. The thunder was guttural. The drive was relentless. It was almost reckless.

The highway was littered with cars – either abandoned or victims of the storm, and I wondered why I was spared. Couldn’t a gust of wind send me sailing off the road or an oncoming car veer into my lane? Continuing the drive was risky.

However, there is a balance in riding the line between riskiness and recklessness. It’s why we ever make mistakes. It’s why we open ourselves to rejection, no matter the pain. Riding the line between riskiness and recklessness is the reason we ever drive, even in the rain.

Defining Risk

New York Times columnist David Brooks says we define our “risk horizon” in these early, formative years. You can bring your horizon in close – never venturing far from home base. Or you can expand it – stretching yourself and making room for growth.

Taking risks can be challenging, but the challenges are surmountable if they are within your own skill set. And because taking risks will cause you to grow, your skill set grow – allowing you to continue expanding your horizon.

Defining Recklessness

But if riskiness is riding the line, recklessness is crossing over. Recklessness is operating beyond your own skill set. There will always be storms, and recklessness is driving without your seatbelt. Being reckless means leaving no room for error. It’s going all in when the odds are stacked against you.

When I was 18 and I bought my first motorcycle, my loved ones bombarded me with horror stories. I think they were trying to convince me to stop riding – that it was too risky to be worth it.

But they had never straddled 300 pounds of pure torque through the back roads. They didn’t know that riding a motorcycle is the closest sensation to flying. They didn’t know I operated within my own skill set. If riskiness is riding a motorcycle, recklessness is ditching your helmet.

Hundreds of my peers will be graduating with me in a few short months. Some will take on big jobs in bigger cities. Others will move back home. Me – I don’t know what the future holds. But I know it’s not time to start reigning in my risk horizon. It can’t be: I just bought another bike.

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