Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


The Art of Living Dangerously

I haven’t had a chance to read it, but I’ll probably pick up “Absinthe and Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously” at some point, if only because of the author’s writing on the relationship between risk and happiness says something I’ve always suspected, that risk takers are happier than risk avoiders anyway:

Psychologists can assess and numerically describe a person’s risk-taking proclivity. Risk-taking behavior can be summarized as a single number from one to 100. A one is a house-bound agoraphobe and a 100 is a heroin junkie with a death wish. The distribution of risk-taking proclivity is described by a normal, bell-shaped curve. Not surprisingly, most people cluster around the mean score, as the graph shows. BB golden-third1-.jpg

But here’s the cool thing. I found that moderate, rational, risk takers, that is, those with scores between the mean and one standard deviation to the right are the people who are most satisfied with their lives. I call that area “the golden third” because it’s roughly 1/3 of the population. Studies (and there are several) show that people who take just a bit more risks than average, that is, those who live their lives in the golden third, tend to do better than average. They tend to be more satisfied with their lives and more fulfilled. To me, that’s a stunning conclusion.