"One of the reasons why mature people stop growing and learning," says John
Gardner, "is that they become less and less willing to risk failure."
Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast,
Word Publishing, 1988, p. 32.
A calm sea does not produce a skilled sailor.
You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
Hudson Taylor, the great man of faith who founded the China Inland Mission, integrated
faith and risk. He said, "Unless there is an element of risk in our exploits for God,
there is no need for faith."
Paul Borthwick, Leading the Way,
Navpress, 1989, p. 153.
But leaders take risks. No one ever stubs his or her toe while standing still. Franklin
D. Roosevelt once said, "It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails,
admit it frankly. But above all, try something!" Failing to try because of a desire
to be secure results in inaction and failure to lead.
John Henry Jowett, a great English preacher, likewise pointed out the temptation of
self-preservation and its result in faithless lives:
It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows through the cultivation of an
insignificant life. Indeed, if a man's ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the
recipe is simple: shed your ambitions in every direction, cut the wings of every soaring
purpose, and seek a life with the fewest contacts and relations. If you want to get
through the world with the smallest trouble, you must reduce yourself to the smallest
compass. Tiny souls can dodge through life; bigger souls are blocked on every side. As
soon as a man begins to enlarge his life, his resistances are multiplied. Let a man remove
his petty selfish purposes and enthrone Christ, and his sufferings will be increased on
Paul Borthwick, Leading the Way,
Navpress, 1989, p. 86.
There was a very cautious man
Who never laughed or played;
He never risked, he never tried,
He never sang or prayed.
And when he one day passed away
His insurance was denied;
For since he never really lived,
They claimed he never died!
Some things that appear dangerous are actually much less hazardous than their safer-looking alternative. Commercial
airline travel, for instance, is 30 times safer than transportation by car. It may not seem that way to the person
who would rather fight rush hour traffic on the ground than ride a solitary Boeing 747 at 35,000 feet. But out of 5 million
scheduled commercial flights in 1982, only 5 resulted in fatal accidents. Being carried by tons of metal thrust through the air
by huge jet engines is actually safer than being pulled along in an 8-cylinder machine that never leaves the ground.
Our Daily Bread.
A ship wrecked off the New England coast many years ago. A young member of the coast guard rescue crew said, "We can't go
out. We'll never get back." The grizzled old captain replied, "We have to go out. We don't have to come back."
You can live on bland food so as to avoid an ulcer; drink no tea or coffee or other stimulants, in the name of health; go
to bed early and stay away from night life; avoid all controversial subjects so as never to give offense; mind your own
business and avoid involvement in other people's problems; spend money only on necessities and save all you can. You can still
break your neck in the bathtub, and it will serve you right.
Eileen Guder, God, But I'm Bored, quoted in Holy
Sweat, Tim Hansel, 1987, Word Books Publisher, p. 48.
Winners see risk as opportunity. They see the rewards of success in advance. They do not fear the penalties of failure.
The winning individual knows that bad luck is attracted by negative thinking and that an attitude of optimistic expectancy
is the surest way to create an upward cycle and to attract the best of luck most of the time. Winners know that so-called luck
is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. If an individual is not prepared, he or she simply does not see or take
advantage of a situation. Opportunities are always around, but only those who are prepared utilize them effectively. Winners
seem to be lucky because their positive self-expectancy enables them to better prepared for their opportunities.
When asked by a news reporter how she thought she would do in one of her early career swimming meets in the United States
several years ago, 14-year-old Australian Shane Gould replied, "I have a feeling there will be a world record today." She went on
to set two world records in the one-hundred- and two-hundred-meter freestyle events. When asked how she thought she would
fare in the more testing, grueling, four-hundred-meter event, Shane replied with a smile, "I get stronger every race, and
besides ... my parents said they'd take me to Disneyland if I win, and we're leaving tomorrow!" She went to Disneyland with
three world records. At 16 she held five world records and became one of the greatest swimmers of all time, winning three
gold medals in the 1972 Olympics. She learned early about the power of self-expectancy.
Denis Waitley in The Winner's Edge (Berkley Books) quoted in
Bits & Pieces, March 4, 1993, p. 13-15.
Behold the turtle; he makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.
These words by James Bryant Conant have special meaning for writer James
1944, when Michener was nearly 40, he was serving in the U.S. Navy on a remote island in
the South Pacific. To kill time, he decided to write a book. He knew that the chances of
anyone's publishing it were practically nil. But he decided to stick his neck out and give
it a try. Michener had decided that the book would be a collection of short stories. A
friend told him that nobody publishes short stories anymore. Even so, he stuck his neck
out and went ahead.
The book was published and it got few reviews, but Orville Prescott,
the book reviewer for The New York Times, reported that he liked the stories. Others
decided they liked the book too, and it wound up winning a Pulitzer prize. Kenneth
McKenna, whose job it was to evaluate books for a Hollywood film company, tried to
persuade his company to make a movie out of it, but the company decided the book "had
no dramatic possibilities." So McKenna stuck his neck out and brought the book to the
attention of composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. When Broadway cynics
heard that Rodgers and Hammerstein were planning a musical call South
guffawed and said, "Have you heard about this screwy idea? The romantic lead is gonna
be a guy past 50. An opera singer named Ezio Pinza!" Everyone knows what happened
after that. "You can understand," said Michener, "why I like people who
stick their necks out."
Bits & Pieces, August 20, 1992, p. 11-13.
Forget about the concept of a town hall meeting to decide public policy. How about this
instead? In Ancient Greece, to prevent idiotic statesmen from passing idiotic laws upon the
people, lawmakers were asked to introduce all new laws while standing on a platform with a
rope around their neck. If the law passed, the rope was removed. If it failed, the
platform was removed.
Quality Press, August, 1992.
The Irish Potato Famine (1846-1851) resulted in a 30 percent drop in the population of
the west of Ireland. The prolonged suffering of the Irish peasantry had broken the
survivors in body and spirit. John Bloomfield, the owner of Castle Caldwell in County
Fermanagh, was working on the recovery of his estate when he noticed that the exteriors of
his tenant farmers' small cottages had a vivid white finish. He was informed that there
was a clay deposit on his property of unusually fine quality. To generate revenue and
provide employment on his estate, he built a pottery at the village of Belleek in 1857.
The unusually fine clay yielded a porcelain china that was translucent with a glass-like
finish. It was worked into traditional Irish designs and was an immediate success. Today,
Belleek's delicate strength and its iridescent pearlized glaze is enthusiastically
purchased the world over. This multimillion-dollar industry arose from innovative thinking
during some very anxious times.
Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992.
When Jean-Claude Killy made the French national ski team in the early 1960s, he was
prepared to work harder than anyone else to be the best. At the crack of dawn he would run
up the slopes with his skis on, an unbelievably grueling activity. In the evening he would
lift weights, run sprints--anything to get an edge. But the other team members were
working as hard and long as he was. He realized instinctively that simply training harder
would never be enough. Killy then began challenging the basic theories of racing
Each week he would try something different to see if he could find a better,
faster way down the mountain. His experiments resulted in a new style that was almost
exactly opposite the accepted technique of the time. It involved skiing with his legs
apart (not together) for better balance and sitting back (not forward) on the skis when he
came to a turn. He also used ski poles in an unorthodox way--to propel himself as he
skied. The explosive new style helped cut Killy's racing times dramatically. In 1966 and
1967 he captured virtually every major skiing trophy. The next year he won three gold
medals in the Winter Olympics, a record in ski racing that has never been topped. Killy
learned an important secret shared by many creative people: innovations don't require
genius, just a willingness to question the way things have always been done.
Reader's Digest, Oct, 1991, p. 61.
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled
or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is
actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives
valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the
great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end
the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while
daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know
neither victory nor defeat.
The things we most fear--crashing in an airplane, being killed by a burglar, dying on
the operating table--are unlikely ever to happen to us. "We are risk
illiterate," one safety expert says. "We have a completely distorted view of
life's real perils." The chance of dying in a commercial airplane crash is just one
in 800,000. You are more likely to choke to death on a piece of food. You are twice as
likely to be killed playing a sport as you are to be stabbed to death by a stranger. And
the chance of dying of a medical complication or mistake is tiny (one in 84,000). You take
a far greater risk riding in a car. One in 5000 of us die that way. The next time you buy
a lottery ticket, bear in mind that you are at least 13 times as likely to be struck by
lightning as you are to hit the jackpot...In helping to set insurance premiums, actuaries
know that this year approximately 765,000 people in America will die of heart disease,
68,000 of pneumonia, 2000 of tuberculosis, 200 in storms and resulting floods, 100 by
lightning, another 100 in tornadoes, and 50 of snakebites and bee stings.
can tell you that, on average, being 30 percent overweight knocks 3.5 years off your life
expectancy; being poor reduces it two years; and being a single man slashes almost a
decade off your life-span (unmarried females are luckier--they lose just four years off
their lives.)...It has been calculated that for every cigarette you smoke, you lose ten
minutes off your life expectancy...The grim predictability of mortality rates is something
that has long puzzled social scientists.
A few years ago, in fact, Canadian psychologist
Gerald Wilde noticed that mortality rates for violent and accidental deaths throughout
most of the Western world have remained oddly static all through this century, despite
advances in our technology and safety standards. Wilde developed a controversial
theory--risk homeostasis--postulating that people tend to embrace a certain level of risk.
When something is made safer, they will somehow reassert the original level of danger. If,
for example, roads are improved with more and wider lanes, drivers will feel safer and go
a little faster, thereby canceling out the benefits that the improved roads confer. Other
studies have shown that where an intersection is made safer, the accident rate invariably
falls there, but rises to a compensating level elsewhere along the same stretch of
road...As the story goes, an American businessman named Wilson, tired of the Great
depression, rising taxes and increasing crime, sold his home and business in 1940 and
moved to an island in the Pacific. Balmy and ringed with beautiful beaches, the island
seemed like paradise. Its name? Iwo Jima.
Bill Bryson, Saturday Evening Post, September,
1988, "Life's Little Gambles".
A mural artist named J.H. Zorthian read about a tiny boy who had been killed in
traffic. His stomach churned as he thought of that ever happening to one of his three
children. His worry became an inescapable anxiety. The more he imagined such a tragedy,
the more fearful he became. His effectiveness as an artist was put on hold once he started
running scared. At last he surrendered to his obsession. Canceling his negotiations to
purchase a large house in busy Pasedena, California, he began to seek a place where his
children would be safe.
His pursuit became so intense that he set aside all his work while
scheming and planning every possible means to protect his children from harm. He tried to
imagine the presence of danger in everything. The location of the residence was critical.
It must be sizable and remote, so he bought twelve acres, perched on a mountain at the end
of a long, winding, narrow road. At each turn along the road he posted signs,
"Children at Play." Before starting construction on the house itself, Zorthian
personally built and fenced a play yard for his three children. He built it in such a way
that it was impossible for a car to get within fifty feet of it. Next...the house.
meticulous care he blended beauty and safety into the place. He put into it various shades
of the designs he had concentrated in the murals he had hanging in forty-two public
buildings in eastern cities. Only this time his objective was more than colorful
art...most of all, it had to be safe and secure. He made sure of that. Finally, the garage
was to be built. Only one automobile ever drove into that garage--Zorthian's. He stood back
and surveyed every possibility of danger to his children. He could think of only one
remaining hazard. He had to back out of the garage. He might, in some hurried moment, back
over one of the children. He immediately made plans for a protected turnaround. The
contractor returned and set the forms for that additional area, but before the cement
could be poured, a downpour stopped the project. It was the first rainfall in many weeks
of a long West Coast drought. It if had not rained that week, the concrete turn-around
would have been completed and been in use by Sunday. That was February 9, 1947... the day
his eighteen-month old son, Tiran, squirmed away from his sister's grasp and ran behind
the car as Zorthian drove it from the garage. The child was killed instantly.
The Quest For Character, Multnomah, p. 81-2.
In 1982, "ABC Evening News" reported on an unusual work of modern art--a
chair affixed to a shotgun. It was to be viewed by sitting in the chair and looking
directly into the gunbarrel. The gun was loaded and set on a timer to fire at an
undetermined moment within the next hundred years. The amazing thing was that people
waited in lines to sit and stare into the shell's path! They all knew the gun could go off
at point-blank range at any moment, but they were gambling that the fatal blast wouldn't
happen during THEIR minute in the chair. Yes, it was foolhardy, yet many people who
wouldn't dream of sitting in that chair live a lifetime gambling that they can get away
with sin. Foolishly they ignore the risk until the inevitable self-destruction.