Managing Risk vs. Managing Yourself

I have returned from Sweden as happy guy, though the mosquitoes tried to make my vacation miserable. They were successful in leaving their traces all over my body, and even pricked me in areas that are rarely exposed to daylight. But the mosquitoes couldn’t destroy the joy I felt, as Sweden is one of the best places to live on earth.

But Sweden cannot take all the credits for our wonderful vacation. A little risk management helped as well…

  • Three bottles of DEET and Autan helped us to reduce the number of troublesome bugs to a tolerable level.
  • Our big rented car (Volvo V70) helped us to transport many bags full of camping gear over long distances (3,500 kms).
  • Special clothing for hiking helped us in handling sweat, weather conditions, and various natural circumstances.
  • Several guides had warned us in advance for suicidal reindeer wandering carelessly on the roads.
  • And with all kinds of tools, from Swiss knives to flashlights, we were able to sustain ourselves in the wild.

Risk management is about the known unknowns. About things you know that might happen, which enables you to plan accordingly. Risk management is taking care of eventualities.

But things can turn out very differently when dealing with unknown unknowns. They are the things that you don’t know that might happen. You cannot plan for what you don’t know.

  • I once had two flat tires in the Nevada desert.
  • We once had a broken gear box in the middle of South Africa.
  • We once had all our baggage stolen from our car in Spain.
  • I once experienced a bout of diarrhea while hiking in Patagonia.
  • And we were once extorted by the police in Brazil.

These are things most people don’t plan for. They are the unknown unknowns. When you don’t even realize the things that could happen to you, you cannot plan for it either.

You can only manage the unknown by managing yourself…

  • Don’t panic. Panic doesn’t get you out of a desert. Thinking does.
  • Be flexible. A Spanish thief is now wearing your Eeyore shorts. So what?
  • Be creative. There are plenty of ways to wipe your behind on a hiking trail.
  • Don’t give up. At some point in the future, the problem will be behind you. Hold on to that thought.

And have a good laugh when the troubles are behind you.

Like I did.

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  • Debashish Brahma

    Wonderful Post.
    Derisking a risky business is an artful management. All people dabble with risk, even you cross a very busy street; you are managing the risk of not being run down by the cars.
    That’s self management of the risk, but when you are professional manager working for an organization you are managing the risk and all your professional knowledge and enterprise will help you out to manage the risk afloat minimizing the risk.
    With Warm Regards,

  • Angelo

    Nice read.
    Although I don’t know if I understood well enough if to take the unknown as a risk outright.

  • Andreas

    So how did you get out of the desert?

  • Jurgen Appelo

    I called a very expensive taxi. 🙂

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