Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Risk and Chance

"I've been watching you for awhile," the crusty old sergeant said. "You take risks but you never take chances. You'll be alright." Had to think about that one for a long time. What was the difference between taking a risk and taking a chance?

In the end it's about luck and cost and acting.

Risk is all about the potential cost. I do dangerous things. Sometimes for fun but mostly for money or to fulfill my obligation. I will and have talked to psychotics alone in a cell, pulled two fighters out of a tank of cheering inmate spectators, faced down a drunk man with a shotgun screaming that he was going to kill his daughter's boyfriend. Risk is one thing. Climbing without ropes is risky. Betting your life savings on a role of the dice is risky. Climbing roped up in a gym isn't risky. Plugging a quarter into a slot machine isn't risky. Risk is about the cost.

Chance isn't quite about luck, it's about attitude towards luck.

Luck is the natural enemy of the operator. All the training, the planning and the rehearsing before a mission is designed to eliminate luck as a factor as much as possible. That said, we know that there is no way to eliminate luck entirely. So we cut it down as far as we can in the time that we have and we move. Even when luck comes into play (and it doesn't always- sometimes things do go according to plan, but those very rarely make good stories) it breaks your way some times. If you have the ability through training or inclination to really thrive in chaos, to stay aware of the changing events and exploit them ruthlessly, luck is usually on your side. But never always. Birds get sucked into turbines. Ammunition misfires. Seagulls shit on rifle scopes.

When you take a chance, you're choosing to rely on your luck. It's the opposite of operator thinking. To take a chance is to decide, "I'm going to do this and if X, Y and Z break my way I'll win." If things outside your control are required for you to win, you're taking chances.

When you plan for what you can forsee and the plan is good, you will succeed unless luck turns against you. Taking a chance is relying on luck, taking a risk is minimizing the role it will play as much as you can and still going, despite the potential cost.

Some risk-takers freeze, though. They don't want to act until all bases are covered, everything is planned for, no chance is left for the plan to go South. But that state of perfect planning is a myth, so there is a comfort level of preparation, of risk control, that decides much about whether an individual will act or wait.


Anonymous said...

Risk includes preparation for possible outcomes. Chance does not: chance assumes everything will go well.

Mike Agbeniyi said...

Well said ! Never Live Life By Chance`. If you take the risk by adding your Faith to it.It will works for you eventually.