How to Run a Marathon in the Snow, and Climb Tall Buildings

It’s fair to say that the more you think about life, the more uncomfortable you’re bound to get. If you don’t agree click here*. Anyway, grim realities aside, it does help us realize that as a species we’re quite risk averse. We don’t like doing things where the outcome isn’t winning. So we pick our battles, and in some sad cases that even means not picking at all.

This is where evolution has screwed us a little. Yes, we have survived this long because of our picking the safer options, but we don’t have many terribly life threatening scenarios in our day to day lives anymore.

My point is that we have a cognitive bias that stops us from taking risks and doing uncomfortable things because we might lose. However, if the rewards are worth it, even slightly more than the risk of loss, then if we take the same risks over and over we will come out on top overall.

Here’s an example: most people won’t take a 50/50 coin toss bet where if they win they get $150 but if they lose they pay $100 because on one coin toss they will lose the $100 they have despite the possibility of winning $150. It is a risk, but, if they repeated the same bet 100x they would statistically win 45% – 55% of the time, which is around $7500. So taking carefully planned risks is often much less risky than we think, but it’s  often uncomfortable.

Here’s an example – this guy calculated the risk of being uncomfortable every day in a relatively safe way, to be able to do something that’s quite dangerous, and run a marathon distance without protective clothing through snow.

Or this guy, taken from the same series, that climbs buildings without a rope. This is obviously incredibly dangerous and for most people the risk of death is complete, but he’s trained himself to do it in reasonable safety, so that by the time he could do it the chances of him failing were much lower.

What I take away from this is that by starting small with very low risk training (eg. Tim Ferriss suggests practicing sauteing skills by putting dry beans in a pan and just learning the action of flipping them without the risk of actual cooking results.) you can gain skills for much riskier goals without incurring as much risk. This has 2 benefits:

1) Most people aren’t willing to try something as risky, so there’s less competition.

2) By improving your skills, increase the chances of your succeeding.

In the end even ants can eat a tiger with enough of them.


{Disclaimer: This post is about taking responsible smart risks to achieve incredible results, and does not encourage risky behaviour}

* If you don’t agree with me, just spend 1 single hour reminding yourself that you will so be gone, and so will everyone you know, and that chances are you won’t leave any proof of your existence except in your genes, and then tell me that wasn’t uncomfortable. Or you could remind yourself that life is not very “fair” at all, except for the survivors. OK, enough grimness go back up to the top.