Taking Risk Out Of The Adventure

Pier (Photo credit: ChadCooperPhotos)

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”   Eleanor Roosevelt

This morning was one of those cold, miserable days in Port Elizabeth.  The wind was howling and the grey clouds spat icy sheets of rain onto those braving the early morning elements. At the beach the swell was rough and turbulent, white spray leaping into the air as it crashed into the pillars of the pier.  Shark Rock Pier is a key landmark on the PE beach front, separating Humewood and Hobey beaches.  It is a cement construction, built some 15 years ago on a series of broad pillars secured into the ocean bed and reaching 137m into the sea.  It is a popular vantage point for both locals and visitors, who are able to venture out into the sea from the safety of this huge structure and experience a taste of the strength and beauty of the ocean behind the shore waves.  At times it is tranquil, romantic, and peaceful yet on other days, like this morning, the white topped swells were crashing into the pillars much higher than normal, making a pier walk less romantic and more of an adventure.  Yet walking Shark Rock Pier was still a safer and more acceptable option than jumping into the turbulent waters and trying to brave the rough seas.  You could experience the adrenalin rush of the wild waters without the fear of drowning or the trauma of being at the mercy of the waves.

I love the analogy of life being an adventure.  Hunter S. Thompson said,

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well preserved body; but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!’”

I like his description and want to be able to approach life like that.  Yet if we are all honest, we want the adventure but want to minimize the risk.  Fear gets in the way and self-preservation sets in.  We desire the adventure but don’t want to lose anything and don’t want the pain of failure.  Now of course that isn’t possible.  Risk means exactly that – there are risks.  But I do believe we can minimize some of those risks by having our own Shark Rock Pier – a series of strong pillars that can lay a platform for our adventures; a foundation that can encourage the adventure yet minimize the cost; a safety net that enables the experience but reduces the risk.  (Here is a picture of Shark Rock Pier – http://www.flickr.com/photos/hundreds/2818863770/)

So what are these pillars that can enable the adventure?  Firstly, we need to desire the adventure.  We need to want the most out of life.  Sadly not enough of us want it badly enough.  John Henry Jowett said,

“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.”

The reality is that the adventure will bring obstacles and challenges.  There has to be a willingness to accept them and face them.  Without them there is no adventure.

Secondly, consult wisely with people whose judgment you trust.  Is my idea a pipedream?  Am I being stupid?  Most good mentors will give you the questions you need to ask to make a wise decision rather than giving you the answer.  At the end of the day it remains your decision.

Thirdly, do your homework.  Explore all the possibilities, facts, dangers and risks of the adventure you want to embark on.  You can turn crazy risk taking into calculated risk taking.  Manfred Malz said, “Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk, and to act.”  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 gun barrel.  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.  That is taking a calculated risk.  That is stupidity!

Fourthly, get comfortable with the waves crashing around you and under your feet.  That’s the value of the pier.  It provides security in the midst of turbulence.  Get comfortable with the unknown.  Embrace change.  General George S. Patton said,

“The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision.  That’s the time to listen to every fear you can imagine!  When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead!”

Fifthly, get perspective.  Often the waves are smaller than you think.  The things we most fear, like crashing in an airplane, being killed by a burglar or 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.

Finally, jump in boots and all.  Throw yourself fully into the life you want.  There is a company called Thrillseekers Unlimited, in Las Vegas, who offers what they call, an “adrenaline vacation” of skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, and rock climbing for the “not-so-faint-of-heart”.  One of the vacationers, who chose bungee jumping as his adventure, was a one hundred year old man.  His two children, ages sixty eight and seventy four, strongly opposed the leap, but Dad refused to listen and he safely jumped from two hundred feet.  After his jump, as he got off the cord, his first words were, “Give me back my teeth!”  I like that old man and want to be more like him.  Up to now some of us have been satisfied with being the ones holding the teeth.

We read about adventures but have preferred to observe them from the safety of our Lazy Boy chair; yet actually pursuing the adventure is easier than we think.  Wildred Peterson said,

“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.”

Take up the challenge and start pursuing life as an adventure today!

Have a wonderful week

Your friend


If you have any questions or feedback about “Taking Risk Out Of The Adventure” please email me at jenningsa@iafrica.com, I would love to hear from you.

Antony Jennings is an international trainer, consultant and motivational speaker based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  Antony writes this free weekly mentoring letter to support and encourage those who are serious about taking charge of their lives.  You will find an archive of his letters at www.antonyjennings.com or www.zifundise.com

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