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Apparent Risk vs Actual Risk

Ben Lumley - Monday, October 19, 2009

Author and Marketing Expert, Seth Godin, wrote a very thought provoking post about risk and taking apparent risk over actual risk. It really rang a cord with me as taking the safe, more secure, more reliable root is something we all do all time in a wide variety of environments.

I don't want to write too much and distract away from Seth's writing. So keep reading and have a real think about it when you've done.

"There are people who I will never encounter in a restaurant.

That's because when these people go out for dinner, they go to chain restaurants. These are the tourists in New York who seek out the familiar Olive Garden instead of walking down the street to Pure.

That's fine. It's a personal choice.

But it got me thinking about the difference between apparent and actual risk, and how that choice affects just about everything we do.

The concierge at a fancy hotel spends her time helping tourists and business travelers avoid apparent risk. She'll book the boring, defensible, consistent tour, not the crazy guy who's actually a trained architect and a dissident. She'll recommend the restaurant from Zagats, not from Chowhound.

Apparent risk is what keeps someone working at a big company, even if it's doing layoffs. It feels safer to stay there than to do the (apparently) insanely risky thing and start a new venture.

Apparent risk is what gets someone who is afraid of plane crashes to drive, even though driving is more dangerous.

Apparent risk is avoiding the chance that people will laugh at you and instead backing yourself into the very real possibility that you're going to become obsolete or irrelevant.

When things get interesting is when the apparently risky is demonstrably [less safe] than the actually risky. That's when we sometimes become uncomfortable enough with our reliance on the apparent to focus on the actual. Think about that the next time they make you take off your shoes at the airport."

via Apparent Risk and Actual Risk by Seth Godin

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