“You don’t follow the rules,” my wife said, “for avoiding a shark attack.”

My wife had been reading about the sharks in Cape Cod this summer. Main rule: stay in shallow water.

Also avoid the ocean entirely if your friends keep saying, “no offense, but you look just like a seal.”

Sharks have been on my list of concerns for years, at least since the movie, “Jaws.” I’ve never actually seen a shark, but still, they’re on the list.

Turns out, I can worry about anything.

Covid, of course. Lyme disease too. And obviously snakes. Bees were never on the list, but they got there after a Time magazine cover story about their disappearance. With bees, you can apparently worry about both their presence, and their absence.

A lot of worry is about losing something you’re fond of, such as your loved ones, or your health, or, in the case of sharks, your upper and lower body.

“Loss aversion,” says Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational,” “means that our emotional reaction to a loss is about twice as intense as our joy at a comparable gain.”

So we’ll go out of our way to avoid loss. That’s why we’d rather hold onto a losing stock than bite the bullet and re-invest our money. And we’d rather hold onto a losing job than re-invest our energy.

But playing it safe can be dangerous, like sitting all day at the beach in the sweltering sun, never going near the water, but slowly dying of heat exhaustion because, let’s face it, the sun can kill you.

When was the last time you took a calculated risk? Nothing reckless or impulsive. Not swimming 400 yards out, just getting your feet wet.

“I’ll never fire you for making a mistake,” said Steven Ross, former CEO of Time Warner. “But I may fire you for not making any.”

His message: Take a chance. And if you screw up, that’s ok.

What would you try if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Tip: Everyone’s afraid. But some people act anyway.

FYI: “More Americans were killed by collapsing sinkholes (16) than sharks (11) between 1990 and 2006” (Guardian Weekly, 8/6/13).

Note to self: update list. Add “sinkholes.”



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PAUL HELLMAN consults & speaks internationally on how to make your point—fast, focused, powerful. For more info: please call 508-879-0934, or email paul@expresspotential.com

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