As a climber, managing risk is a critical part of the sport. Unlike in business, the consequences of something going wrong can result in death. So how do climbers evaluate risk and what can leaders in business learn from them?
The fatalistic approach is best described as ‘No one gets out of here alive.’ ‘Everyone is going to die sometime so what’s the problem. At least I die doing something I love.’ The problem is this approach doesn’t take account of the pain and suffering of the people you leave behind. It ignores the process of managing risk. Alex Honold, the climber from the documentary film ‘Free Solo‘ has a different perspective. He lives with high levels of risk whenever he climbs and his perspective is interesting. With a young family, he has a lot to live for. Here are his five rules for living with risk from his podcast, Climbing Gold.
#1 Life and death decisions are not scalable, you will lose eventually.
In other words, what are the consequences of the risks you are taking? What is the worst thing that can happen and is it acceptable?
#2 Complexity makes it impossible to control risk, there are too many unknowns.
You can reduce complexity, but not eliminate it. Our world is becoming more complex and we have to accept unexpected things will happen. The risks we take could turn out worse than we expected because of unknowable factors.
#3 Preparation is key when you are stepping out of your comfort zone.
Build up to taking big risks. Do you know enough to evaluate the risk you are taking? When I was younger, I was inclined to take bigger risks. What could possible go wrong? Do your homework to understand and figure this out.
#4 Surround yourself with people who compliment your skills or provide different perspectives.
When we go solo we move forward with a limited perspective. The people around us will help us make better risk based decisions. Only if we let them.
#5 Navigating risk is the act and the art of living.
What life do you want to live and what risk is worth taking to achieving it? This is the big trade off.
Alex’s rules are applicable to anyone. How are you evaluating the risk in your life?