Low Risk, Low Reward: Why Playing It Safe Will Never Pay Off In The New Year

by Sebastian Scholl

We all hunt for advice on a daily basis, constantly asking friends, peers, family members — even strangers — what they think we should do about this, that or the other. We hope they might enlighten us by offering with some fantastic motto or insight that will change our perspectives and attitudes for the better. But let's be honest, that rarely ever happens.

Instead, the advice we generally receive keeps us playing it safe. We’re told never to wander too far off the beaten path and that it’s important to be careful. We’re encouraged to stray from impulsive decisions, not to take many chances until we're ready (as if anyone's ever ready).

Often, people suggest I take the road most traveled, and for the most part, the advice feels meaningless and lazy.

Counter-intuitively, the reason we subconsciously ask for this dead-end advice is that it soothes us. We want affirmation for our desires to stay in life’s comfort zone. We treat our stressful uncertainties with escapism.

It’s frightening to make decisions confidently, to choose your own path and to commit to your own judgment. The reason we receive the advice we do is that the purveyor of advice undeniably wants to be right just as much as you don’t want to fail. So, when you tell someone to play it safe, maybe it seems that nobody loses, but truly, nobody wins.

Also, say you choose not to take someone’s advice and then you subsequently fail. There are few things worse than hearing a snooty “told you so,” right? And if you do choose to listen to the boring advice, of course you’ll be okay. Nothing is ever at stake when you’re constantly playing it safe. But hey, low risk, low reward. You obviously are aware of this correlation; you asked for advice in the first place.

My father always tells me that if you never bet, you can’t win. The majority of advice we receive in life – especially as young adults – essentially instructs us not to take chances. But maybe this has more to do with the advice-giver’s stress level rather than your own.

No one wants to be the reason behind someone else’s losing bet. Though if you lost a bet, it would objectively be your fault though the advice-giver likely will not believe so.

Knowing whom to ignore in life is equally important as knowing to whom you should listen. Opinions are as mundane assh*les — everyone has one. While it’s valuable to expose yourself to as many perspectives in life as possible, only do so if you have the backbone to recognize and to filter out all the silly useless advice. Safe advice can harm you.

In my eyes, advice that nurtures and encourages mediocrity is harmful advice. Advice that seems to be “realistic” is likely to be harmful advice. Generally, it discourages creativity, undercuts aspirations and encourages conformity.

Whenever you find yourself in the presence of someone who touts safe advice, just leave. Don’t waste your time with these people because there is no point in asking someone who has never truly lived for an opinion on your life’s affairs.

Top Photo Courtesy: Tumblr