Sunday, June 21, 2009

Safety versus Risk Taking 

Today I read a wonderful article on risk taking in the Sunday Parade Magazine. The author, Jamie McEwan, won a bronze medal in white-water slalom in the 1972 Summer Olympics. What caught my eye was Mr. McEwan's comment, "To avoid all risk is to become immobilized."

How true! We have had it so good for so long that we are letting the risk averse mindset control much of what we do and teach our kids. We deny them basic activities at school so no one gets hurt. We often do their chores. We teach them that things will always be good, come out their way or that someone else is really at fault.

What we're really teaching them is to avoid life. As I've told my students, "Life is not risk free so get over it." You have to push yourself; try something outside your comfort zone. When you push yourself, you will discover that you can do more than you thought you could do.

Avoiding risk is not safe, anyway. We take risks every day: driving a car, walking down the street, etc. Risks simply must be faced: the risk of failure, humiliation, hurt. We cannot protect our children from the world so we need to teach them how and when to be rational risk-takers.

I remember a cartoon from my youth. The strip, Nancy, had a character Sluggo who woke up on Friday the 13th, and decided to stay in bed, just to play it safe. What happened? The ceiling fell on him!

We owe it to our children, our students, and ourselves, to take risks. Evaluate the odds, put a plan in place, then just do it. We will learn if we fail but will experience previously unknown joy if we succeed.

Labels: ,