Note: The following blog post is taken from a book I that should be publishing this fall called 52 of the Greatest Things Anyone Ever Said…and Why. It’s a book with a year’s worth of weekly words of wisdom and inspiration that are taken from a book I self-published 20 years ago. Each week is a quotation with a short commentary. If you’re interested in getting a personal note when the book is available on Amazon, email me at Bill@insuranceCommentary.com and I’ll not only let you know when the book is available, but I’ll also send you a free copy of my earlier book right now.
“A ship in harbor is safe…but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd
Are you a high stakes gambler? A thrill seeker? A risk taker? If you’re like most people, the answer is no. Most of us lean towards risk aversion, not risk taking, at least when life or limb or financial ruin is at stake. And there’s nothing wrong with that unless taken to the extreme.
Margie Warrell is a speaker and author whose message is about being brave and not playing it safe. According to research, we are hardwired to be cautious and maintain the status quo. This reticence to assume risk reveals itself in four key ways:
- Overestimating the likelihood that something will go wrong
- Exaggerating the consequences of something going wrong
- Underestimating our ability to handle the consequences of risk assumption
- Underestimating the opportunity cost of not assuming risk and sticking with the status quo
In my background in property and casualty insurance, it’s a given that insurance premiums are based largely on frequency and severity; that is, the likelihood of loss and its predicted financial consequences. However, in the insurance industry, we have actuarial techniques to predict loss frequency and severity for large groups of similar exposures. That is something that is not easy to do on an individual basis.
This unpredictability and inability to gauge and measure personal risk causes us to engage in self-doubt to the point that we cling to the status quo and fear to venture out of the harbor. On top of that, we don’t recognize that there is often a cost associated with our inaction. This cost can be financial or emotional if, as Ms. Warrell puts it, we feel dissatisfied in our careers, stuck in relationships, or “living lives we would never have chosen, much less have aspired to.”
So, when an opportunity presents itself, ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen to me if I chose this course of action?” If you attempt to weigh the risk vs. reward and consider your talent, ability, and desire, you will probably find that moving forward is worth the risk.
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The baseline assumption is wrong. Just like assuming the euniverse is billions of years old.