The very fact that you’re alive tells me that you are encountering risks. It’s been said that “the person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, or love. Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom. Only the person who risks is truly free.”

We usually describe risk as “a state of uncertainty where some of the possibilities involve a loss, catastrophe, or other undesirable outcome.” Of course, the other side of risk includes the possibility of gaining something of value.

When I was young and starting out in business, I always felt that I could well afford to run the risks of failure, because in failure I really didn’t have that much to lose. I could take the lumps, count the cost, pick up the pieces, and start over again. I didn’t mind going out on a limb because that was where the fruit was growing. My attitude was that if I pushed to the very brink, I would be shown a way to proceed on the ground, or else I would be taught how to fly. After all, how was I to know how far I could go in a venture if I hadn’t run the risk of going too far?

But the more I accumulated, the more the idea of risk became an issue.The more I had to lose, the more seriously I considered my options, choices, and consequences. I learned several times that I was very vulnerable and had a lot to lose. That prompted me to start developing some skills of risk assessment and some practices of risk aversion. I was discovering that in my business dealings, I was developing a risk attitude, and I began measuring my decisions against a rather clumsy gauge of rate of gain versus rate of ruin. Somewhere in the adventure, I was being exposed to concepts like regret and fear of loss.

When I became involved in international business and traveling with Project C.U.R.E., I was glad I had learned some things about risk taking.There were situations in Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Palestine, Russia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and even Kenya where the risks involved my very life and safety. God’s protection, some carefully made decisions, and the help of many friends in more than 150 countries averted the serious consequences of some of those perilous risks.

In one of my Project C.U.R.E. offices, I had a map of the world affixed to the wall. One day I made a statement to the people visiting me: “If you were to stand on this side of the room and throw a dart at the map, provided the dart didn’t land on water or snow, within a three-inch radius of the dart, I would have a friend who would be willing to risk his or her life to help me out of danger.”

That was a rather audacious statement, I know. But it was based on the fact that I had worked in nearly every corner of the world, and the unusually positive influence of Project C.U.R.E. had enabled me to develop many deep-rooted relationships with people who would have put themselves in harm’s way to come to my rescue.

Taking a risk is an interesting concept. It includes the possibility of loss or injury, or at least the inconvenience of an imposing circumstance.And there is a notion that choice has something to do with whether or not the outcome is altered. Risk taking can get complicated. The consequences of my risks can splash over onto other people around me and affect their lives and well-being. We’re hardly ever isolated, stand-alone objects in situations that include risks.The events set into motion by our choices, as well as the eventual consequences, will usually invade the lifestyles of our families and friends.

As I’ve reflected on my statement regarding the map in my office, I realize that there would be no need for someone to come and help me were I not involved in a high-risk circumstance. The willingness of my friends to come to my rescue would imply that they would be placing themselves in a risk-taking situation because I was already in trouble. 

Our culture teaches us to seek safety and security, but as Mark Twain used to say, “Necessity is the mother of taking chances.”  And I am in theologian Paul Tillich’s corner when he observed, “He who risks and fails can be forgiven. He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being.”

I personally believe that no noble thing can be accomplished without taking risks, and ordinary people can do extraordinary things if they’re encouraged to be confident, to stand tall, and to fully engage those calculated risks.