Risky Business

During a phone call I had with my father over the weekend, I was telling him about how I spent a part of the Labor Day weekend taking on a few of Tussey Mountain’s biking trails with some friends.  Even though I made sure to tell him that I was wearing a helmet and exercised caution throughout all of the trails– he responded by saying, “Everything you like is dangerous, why don’t you try playing chess or something.”  After having a good laugh with him and hanging up the phone shortly after, I realized he was right.  I was also surprised that after years of mountain biking, motorcycle riding, and playing D1 rugby, I never let risk get in the way of my involvement in any of these activities. In this post, I will discuss why younger individuals love to take risks, and why Andrew was right when he told us that our intuition is quite lousy.


A picture of Philippe Petit tight rope walking between the Twin Towers in 1974. Photo taken from NYDailyNews Photo Gallery (http://goo.gl/rNtuZi)


Why do young adults and adolescents engage in risky behavior?

Whenever this question arises, it is most often answered with an explanation of, “Teenager’s minds are still developing” or simply, “Kids are stupid and have terrible intuition.” While both of these statements can be true, they do not fully explain the mechanism behind why younger individuals are more prone to partake in risky behavior. In this article from Harvard Magazine, Dr. Frances Jensen and Dr. David Urion explain that teenagers make risky decisions because of the way our brains develop.  They go on to explain that the lobes of the human brain develop from back to front (posterior to anterior). This process is not fully completed until the ages of 25-30. The frontal lobe, which is responsible for critical thinking and decision making, is the most anterior lobe and is the last to develop.  Their hypothesis states that because this lobe is the last to develop, it leads to highly impaired decision making in teens and young adults.


Conclusion- Is all risk taking bad?  Should I take Risks?
We are always skeptical of the concept of risk as it involves the possibility of failure, which nobody likes.  It gives the word a negative connotation.  What many fail to consider is that there are both good and bad risks.  High stakes gambling, unsafe sex, and drug use are all examples of bad risks because their positive outcomes are very unlikely and have little to no longevity.  Firefighters, police officers, and servicemen all over the world risk their lives and well being for the people that they swore to protect.  The founding fathers of the United States risked much more than their lives when they declared independence from Great Britain.  Scientists take risks when conducting various experiments and field research, such as the Apollo missions or the Challenger disaster.  These are all good risks because their positive outcomes lead to improvement of society and human technological advancement.  Although these risks can lead to a negative outcome, they are a necessary step to achieving great things and improving.  Taking healthy risks builds character and leads to unleashing one’s full potential.  It’s not always a bad idea to occasionally step outside your comfort zone.

4 thoughts on “Risky Business

  1. lkv5058

    I am a risk taker and I’ve been told it is because my prefrontal cortex is not fully developed so I can’t see the consequences for my action before I make a mistake. This may be partially true, but many adults are risk takers as well. I think much of it has to do with personality rather than brain development. Some people love adrenaline while others would much rather be in a very safe and secure environment. Not sure if you’re a risk taker? Take this quiz.

  2. Zihan Wang

    I think risk is the most common thing in business field. Inflation, recession, and monetary policy are all risky things for economists. For my perspective, same to you, risk is not a bad word that negative things are existing with positive. It’s impossible for us to only accept good news, because everything is bilateral. Maybe before you investment, you don’t know what you will get or lose, but what you need to do is that make enough investigation about this thing to try your best to avoid crisis. It’s ridiculous to avoid risk, because no risk, no success. After you have taken risks, you will become more knowledgeable and cautious for your next try. No innovation’s life is monotony, and people who want to be successful must face to risk with courage.

  3. Pengji Wei

    After I read your blog, I finally knew why young adults like us always willing to take risk at most of things we do. Before this, I have always thinks I am still not mature enough. But every time when I do something really really hard, and can not figure out what to do, I always takes that risk step. But ever time I found out that it’s worked. So just like you said, we should step out our comfort zone, and take that risk, because sometimes only if we take that step, we can be successful or get a great reward. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacia-pierce/why-taking-risks-comes-wi_b_4235351.html
    Just like what Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did. I am sure they did take a lot of risk when they drops out form college and starting their own business on high technology at that time when everything is old and tradition. So I am surly agree with your essay and also helps me understand why young adults like to take risk.

  4. David Louis Haselkorn

    I am personally a risk taker and have found out that there is no way to becoming successful without risk. Whatever situation it may be within reason usually the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. In terms of success in business, almost every situation I’ve heard involved huge risk. There was some sort of business that seemed to be undervalued and someone took a big chance and made a fortune.You can read more about rise taking in business in this article. http://stanfordbusiness.tumblr.com/post/92185862614/9-reasons-why-you-must-take-big-risks-in-business. If you don’t take chances in life you will never get ahead. In terms of personal choices risk taking goes both ways. There is a big difference between taking risks that will have good benefits, and ones that could hurt you.

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