Why everyone should gamble
Everything in life is a gamble — from driving down the freeway to the career you choose to the spouse you marry.
Along with rainbows and sunsets, Father forged an earth for us teeming with lions, sharks, and scorpions; convulsing with earthquakes and volcanoes; thrashed by hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis.
And He called the whole treacherous thing good, handed us the double-edged sword of choice, and sent us down to face the danger and unpredictability with faith and courage.
Trying to escape risk in life is like a fish trying to escape water; the only escape from risk is death.
You make choices to avoid and mitigate risk. But every decision comes with the inherent risk of what might have been had you chosen otherwise.
Sacrificing your life mission for the illusion of security is the greatest risk of all — the risk of not living up to your potential. No other risk comes with higher costs and more tragic consequences.
A life worth living is full of conscious, calculated risk. This does not mean being stupid and screaming down the freeway at 120 miles per hour driving to work every day.
It means recognizing the risks inherent in every choice, then taking a gamble on the thing that has the highest likelihood of generating the greatest returns: our creative instinct.
As Gary Blair said,
“Creative risk taking is essential to success in any goal where the stakes are high. Thoughtless risks are destructive, of course, but perhaps even more wasteful is thoughtless caution which prompts inaction and promotes failure to seize opportunity.”
Living a meaningful life is not a choice between avoiding or taking risk; such a choice does not exist. Rather, it is a choice between courageous risks that expand our soul and maximize our contributions, and cowardly risks that stifle our potential and limit our contributions.
In his classic self-help book, Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz explains,
“Have you ever wondered why the desire to gamble seems to be instinctive in human nature? My own theory is that this universal urge is an instinct, which when used correctly, urges us to bet on ourselves, to take a chance on our own creative potentialities.
“When we have faith and act with courage — that is exactly what we’re doing — gambling on, taking a chance on, our own creative God-given talents.
“It is also my theory that people who frustrate this natural instinct, by refusing to live creatively and act with courage, are the people who develop ‘gambling fever’ and become addicts of gambling tables. A man who will not take a chance on himself must bet on something. And the man who will not act with courage sometimes seeks the feeling of courage from a bottle.
“Faith and courage are natural human instincts and we feel a need to express them — in one way or another.”
I wonder how many people drown their guilt from not taking courageous risk not with bottles or pills, but with paychecks and 401(k)s.
Degrees, pension plans, savings accounts, insurance — all aspects of our modern infrastructure — certainly have their place. The danger is that they can create the illusion of guarantees, and consequently a sense of entitlement.
Life offers only one guarantee: your ability to choose your responses to circumstances.
You can lose your job at any time. You can get paralyzed in a car accident any time you drive. Your spouse can leave you unexpectedly. Your business can fail, you can lose all your money, you can lose your children.
You’re not entitled to a worry-free life where everything works out just how you want it to.
The way to live, then, is to never take anything for granted. When everything is a risk, everything is also a miracle.
Today I woke up beside a beautiful, amazing woman who walks beside me through life. I am blessed beyond comprehension.
Today I am strong and healthy. What an incredible miracle.
Today my son recited to me a Shakespeare quote he had memorized. What a treasured moment.
I just wrote this article on a computer. I pinch myself and marvel.
Tomorrow all these blessings could disappear. Today I give thanks for miracles. And today I embrace the awesome nature of risk and choose the risk of pursuing my passion.