Why taking no risks is risky business

Most worthwhile things in life come with some risk-taking. Pursuing a medical degree. Marriage. Starting a business. Begetting offspring. Climbing tall mountains.


Photo by Martin Jernberg on Unsplash


The question is: Is the risk worth it?

Lisa Genova wrote a book—Inside the O’Briens—about a fictitious family with Huntington’s diseaseHuntington’s is a rare disorder that causes the deterioration of brain cells, affecting both the brain and the body. And unfortunately, the disease is genetically transferrable to the next generation.

There is a scene in the book that impacted me.

After Joe, the father, was forced to retire early from the Boston Police Dept. because of Huntington’s, his wife walked into their bedroom to discover him checking out his gun.

At this point, two of Joe’s four children had tested positively for carrying the gene; and his youngest daughter, Katie, had the genetic test done but hadn’t gotten up the courage to learn the results.

After the gun incident, Katie pays her father an unexpected visit. She reminds him of all he taught his children by his example: Good work ethic, the importance of family, of watching out for each other. Katie told her dad that now he needed to teach them how to live and die with this horrible disease.

And then she said these words:

Every breath is a risk, [but] love is why we breathe.

We’ve all seen those crazy photos depicting men doing risky things. The caption usually reads something like this: “Why women live longer than men.”


Photo: stupiditz.com


Although this blog is about taking risks, it’s not about stupidity. It’s about understanding that achieving the good things in life will more than likely involve taking a chance:

By opening our hearts to someone, we face the risk of rejection, or the risk they’ll leave us — by choice or through death.

Begetting offspring is a risk in so many ways.

Following one’s passion to teach, or build bridges, or find a cure for one of the many cancers carries the risk of failure.

Climbing mountains includes the risk of falling.

The planning of road trips: What if we get lost, or never reach our destination?

Signing up for a class is a gamble because fellow students might see our art, hear our music, watch us dance.

So much possibility and peril in life, and yet the riskiest thing is not pursuing adventure; not chasing down our goals; not opening our hearts.

This thought from Jim McMahon, former pro football player:

Risk-taking is inherently failure prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking.

Living life should be precarious and exhilarating and scary and exciting. It should take our breath away. It should involve stepping out toward risk, toward love … because love is why we breathe.


P.S. If you found this post helpful or inspirational, please share, tweet or pin!


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  1. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    Dear Marlys,
    ‘Life is ever full, never dull’ – especially if risk is involved. Thank you so much for this blog, I kept saying, Yes, Yes, Yes. I/we (Barbara and I) couldn’t imagine not taking risks in our lives. In doing so we found Love around every corner, at the top of that hill/mountain, in that dripping wet cave, on or under those choppy seas, taking the controls of a trainer airplane…. and the one place I was careful with my risk taking was ‘finding that perfect wave’ surfing ’till it hurt or I was tired out from the exhilaration and the pure joy of ‘being out there’. Thanks for reminding me and taking me to some special risk taking. God Bless, Bx P & family.

  2. Marcia Musial

    I’ve ropelled many times when I was younger, with a group of people. The only Mountains I’ve climbed were metaphoric. But they were tough. Have a good week Marlys.

  3. Marlene Alexander

    Good article Marlys! Will send to my son. Thank you!

  4. As usual, Marlys, true and encouraging! Thank you.

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