It's a Thursday evening and I'm on the bus again... Sorry...
To give you an idea of where I’m going with this one, consider the questions:
What Netflix show would you be willing to die for? Or maybe just a serious injury?
I was sitting down the back of the bus, as usual, and across from me was a guy, probably mid twenties, whose face appeared to be magnetized to his phone.
As far as I could tell he didn't take his eyes off the screen for the entire journey, which is fine. Having Youtube, Netflix etc… on your commute is amazing.
The issue, however, cropped up when it was his time to disembark.
He stands up, face still buried in his Samsung screen, and heads for the stairs
On his back is a large backpack. In one hand is his phone and in the other is a plastic bag with something heavy enough to stretch out the plastic a little.
As he reaches the stairs he faces a dilemma. How does he get down without missing a single nanosecond of what he is watching on Netflix?
With a complete lack of grace is the answer.
Rather than pausing what he is watching, putting his phone away and walking down the stairs with a firm grip on the handrail and without risking a fall that would cause serious injury (not to mention holding up everyone else on the bus if he did fall), he opts instead to try balance everything.
As the bus jerks left, right, forward and back his body is tossed around the stairwell. First he stands on the top step, leans back into the wall behind him and waits for a smooth section of road.
It doesn't come.
He still doesn't put the phone away.
Next he grabs the rail with a free baby finger on the hand that is holding his bag and begins his descent.
I winced as I watched, sure he was about to go head first down those steps.
But that's not the point. The point is that he was willing to take the risk at all for the sake of not diverting his attention from his phone for eight seconds.
What does it all mean
I do this all the time - that is, I take significant risks that are absolutely not worth it.
The most common example of this is probably speeding while driving.
I hate being late (as I have discussed across various posts) and that means I often find myself speeding while driving in order to ensure that I am making good time.
In 99% of cases, absolutely nothing of any significance would happen as a result of me being late, other than my own anxiety, but that doesn't stop me in the moment. I drive faster, risking my own life. Worse than that, I’m risking someone else's.
I also risk getting caught, pulled over, fined and being a lot later than I would have been otherwise.
I see other people do similar things all the time. Have you ever been running to catch a bus or train and run across a road with far less care than is warranted?
The potential cost of being more careful? Possibly missing the bus and having to wait forty minutes for the next one.
The risk? Losing your life to a car.
Or how about one we can all relate to. Carrying too much for the sake of avoiding a second trip.
Recently I found my self balancing two cups of tea, a bowl of nuts and seeds, a tablet computer and a charger in my arms in order to bring them from the kitchen to the living room.
I was trying to save myself an additional trip, all the while risking a significant amount of work or expense if some of those items should fall.
That one was definitely not worth the risk.
So when is the risk worth taking?
Obviously there are situations where we take financial risks that end up being worth it, or business decisions that involve significant risk but are required to move forward. But I’m thinking on a more personal day to day level.
Let’s consider learning a new skill.
As adults we don't learn to do new things as often as we should, largely due to time constraints.
The thing about learning a new skill is that it's hard. It takes a lot of time. It will bruise your ego because you will suck at first. You will be embarrassed to share with other people due to your lack of skill. You will be begin to understand just how little you know about the thing you are learning as you learn more about it.
The risk here is that you waste a lot of time and effort for something that you don't stick with. You may also bruise your ego in the process.
Let's look at learning to play an instrument, taking the guitar as an example.
You buy a guitar, which costs €100 - €200. You may also choose to pay for lessons on top of that. You then spend weeks trying to learn chords and forcing your damn finger to change between them without making a horrible racket.
Then, after two months, you decide to pack it in.
All that time, money and effort wasted.
That was the risk - but it was worth taking.
The reward could have been a lifetime of enjoying this new hobby, improving your skill, creating music and sharing it with others.
Take the risks that are worth taking, but much more importantly don't risk everything over trivial stupid shit like a Netflix show, missing a bus or being slightly late.