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He who dares wins

The above is the motto used by the elite British special services, the SAS, and it perfectly coins the attitude of the soldiers that are selected from the bravest and most daring of all arms of the military. The message communicates courage in all circumstances and highlights the point that the individual who is willing to take on the burden of risk is the more likely life contender to attain victory. Although this now famous motto is forever associated with the SAS, it is equally, if not more, applicable to the thought, words and actions of the everyday man, who as the message communicates will only win if he has the courage to take risk.

Risk is a fascinating concept, that some men in suits sitting in high rise insurance offices do everything to mitigate, in the hope that their financial bottom line shines brighter than all others, and although this part of their business strategy is understandable in the midst of their grey uncompassionate considerations, it is many would argue, anathema to the spirit of risk that allowed cavemen to walk of their dwellings and conquer the earth. One can only imagine the conversations that might have occurred had the suits been sitting in the corner of the caves, advising the brave adventurers of the terrible risks that awaited them beyond the safety of the maternal cave.

Risk, or rather the ability to take risk, was the foundation upon which men such as Columbus set sail for the other unknown end of the world, and although his day is celebrated in the US, what is not stressed enough is the spirit of adventure and risk, without which America would never have been colonized, although that is a different ethico-political argument. The point is that risk has been an essential feature for the evolution of man, and without it there is a good chance the species would have come to a premature conclusion.

Why are some men more risk friendly than others?

Genetics is always a fairly safe explanation, as it is almost impossible to argue against the effects of scientifically tangible entities that have been shown to influence such a wide range of human behavioral characteristics. It would be reasonable to state that the sons of risk takers are risk takers themselves, unless the recessive genes of their mother are so devious in their infiltration of the double helix, as to neuter this critical component of survival.

Of course the next suspect on the list is the environment in which the child develops, and although we all think we know what environment means, we don’t. The environment can mean anything and everything, all senses included that might have had an impact on the development of both the mental and physical configurations of a human being. These influences are often subtle and can include a single word, a single look, a single feeling, all of which can have the effect of imprinting their developmental power on the growing mind of a child.

Some individuals are born with a natural ability to take risk, which one would assume is more related to a genetic feature, but is actually something that occupies the spiritual/sublime dimensions of the human experience, and can be more clearly ascertained through discussions with notable risk takers, who often describe a sense of nothingness as they embark on their death defying acts, a state very similar to that achieved in the deepest of meditation planes.

Risk is the human quality that has over the centuries allowed the forging of good against evil, as any arena of military conflict has proven, and if humanity were to negotiate risk for the promise of comfort it would be a short lived peace.

The numerous definitions of risk include variations on the balance between the benefits and penalties of specific types of human thought, word and behavior, and while most people might initially only consider risk with the taking of action some of the most profound examples of historical risk have been those associated with the risk of revolutionary thought. One only has to look back at the 14th century and the days of the Spanish inquisition to understand the immense risk to which non-believers subjected themselves. It would hard identifying any group of humans today that had the courage to endure such mental and physical torture for taking the risk to challenge such an entrenched belief.

So one of the dilemmas that now faces man in the 21st century relates to the quality of risk and has it been neutered to such an extent that the species may in fact become a victim of its own timidity. Are the children of today too mentally and physically soft to endure and progress on this planet in the same fearless way that the explorers of the 14th century did, with their makeshift vessels and unreliable compasses. Is it possible that the hormonal and brain physiology of man has forever altered in such a way that the ‘real’ men of yesteryear are gone to be replaced by bean counting, hand wringing suits whose lives revolve around mitigating risk.

The SAS has developed an almost mythical reputation because of their motto and philosophy, and in adopting this credos they have achieved countless victories and provided inspiration to those men of the world who should realize that success does not come without great risk.

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