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Playing it Safe Can Be Risky - Nightingale

Another essay by Earl Nightingale from the How to Completely Change Your Life Series

Playing It Safe Can Be Risky

People who play it too safe take the greatest risks. Did you know that? In the long haul, the intelligent risk-takers develop the greatest security. It’s a wise person who learns the importance of risk taking.

During World War II, psychologist E. Paulo Torrance made a study of United States aces flying in the Pacific theater of operations. He reported that the most salient characteristic of the ace was his risk-taking ability.

Throughout his life, he had kept testing the limits of his abilities. And the life histories of these men showed that they were highly resistant to accidents, and in combat they suffered fewer casualties than pilots who were inclined to play it safe. Dr. Torrance said,

“Living itself is a risky business. If we spent half as much time learning how to take risks as we spent avoiding them, we wouldn’t have nearly so much to fear in life.”

In all walks of life, the most successful people are the risk-takers. By that, I mean they risk believing in their own ideas, striking out toward their own goals, standing up for what they believe to be right. They take the risk of being different when they believe in something. This has a tendency to make the going a little tougher for a while, but they almost always wind up ahead of the game eventually.

Risk-takers realize there’s nothing wrong with an occasional failure. The play-it-safers seem to think a failure means the end of the world.

The risk-takers are not foolhardy. Getting back to the World War II aces for a moment, it was found that these men were very fussy about their airplanes, armament and equipment. They were painstaking in preparation and highly disciplined in following instructions and what they had been taught. But in an encounter with the enemy, they would immediately take charge and go on the offense. The best defense is often a good offense. The best pass defense in football is to rush the quarterback. When a storm comes up, ships in the harbor head for the raging open sea, unless they’re protected in slips. In the harbor, they could drag their anchors and wind up on the beach or the breakwater.

So what appears to be risk-taking is often the most intelligent course to follow. It leads to security, while what would appear to be the safest course of action can lead to disaster or, simply, nowhere.

A young woman, whose romance had gone on the rocks, told her mother that she was never going to permit herself to fall in love again.

“You only get hurt,” she said.

“And if you don’t fall in love,” her mother said, “you don’t live.”

It’s another one of those risks the successful person is willing to take.

Everyone runs risks—quite sizable risks—every day of his life… risks he takes for granted or isn’t even aware of. But when an unusual situation comes along that involves risk-taking, how do you decide whether or not to go ahead?

When a situation comes along that involves risk, and you don’t know whether to go ahead or hold back, reassess your goals. What are you trying to accomplish? What are you working toward? Will taking this risk, if it works out successfully, help you toward your goals?

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