You Are What You Risk Book Summary - You Are What You Risk Book explained in key points
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You Are What You Risk summary

Michele Wucker

The New Art and Science of Navigating an Uncertain World

3.9 (221 ratings)
24 mins

Brief summary

In "You Are What You Risk," Michele Wucker explores how embracing risk can lead to innovation, growth, and success. Along the way, she offers insights and advice for individuals and organizations looking to take calculated risks in pursuit of their goals.

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    You Are What You Risk
    Summary of 7 key ideas

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    People’s relationships with risk are unique and complex.

    What does risk mean to you? And how does it make you act?

    Imagine three friends who have the chance to go skydiving. The first, a daredevil, says yes right away. The second isn’t so sure. So she does some research and discovers there’s a higher chance of being struck by lightning than of dying from a skydive. OK, then – she signs up too.

    The third friend? He’s terrified. But he’s even more scared of his two friends thinking he’s a coward. So he reluctantly agrees.

    In the end, they all go skydiving. But they’ve each taken a different kind of risk.

    The key message here is: People’s relationships with risk are unique and complex.

    The first skydiving friend in our example is someone with naturally low risk sensitivity. She just doesn’t think skydiving is dangerous, so taking part is easy. Friend Two is sensitive enough to research the danger. But the data gives her confidence.

    Which friend displays the highest risk tolerance? It’s actually Number Three – the scaredy-cat. He’s hugely sensitive to the dangers of skydiving, but decides to do it anyway. Simply put: he takes the biggest risk.

    People can make surprising and even illogical decisions when it comes to taking risks. The author often thinks about her grandmother, who carefully planned for winter by freezing summer vegetables and, inexplicably, large amounts of butter. But despite being so overcautious about food, she refused to go to the doctor when she got sick. Why risk so little regarding food, and so much regarding health?

    Well, it mostly boils down to how bad we are at seeing rhinos – gray ones, that is.

    A gray rhino is a huge, obvious threat you can see coming from a mile away. For example, on a global scale, think about the precarious state of the financial system. Or the climate crisis. We all have personal gray rhinos too – like doomed relationships or slowly mounting health problems.

    The thing about gray rhinos is, we’re surprisingly bad at acknowledging they’re charging straight at us. 

    Everyone could benefit from better acknowledging risks – including the huge, gray, rampaging ones they don’t want to deal with. What we should all be aiming for is our own Goldilocks-style sweet spot, where we take risks that are neither too great nor too small.

    That’s not to say that everyone is Goldilocks, though. Some people are Mama Bear; they like cooler porridge. Some are Papa Bear and like it hotter. At the end of the day, people’s approach to risk simply varies depending on who they are.

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    What is You Are What You Risk about?

    You Are What You Risk (2021) explains how your relationship with risk defines your life in a unique way. Countless factors influence both how you perceive risk and how you respond to it.

    Who should read You Are What You Risk?

    • People searching for new ways to make decisions
    • Economists looking to better understand risk
    • Thrill-seekers and scaredy-cats wondering why they are how they are

    About the Author

    Michele Wucker is a global strategist, speaker, and commentator whose book The Gray Rhino has been hugely influential in the world of finance and government. She gives speeches on leadership, crisis management, the economy, and other issues. Earlier in her career she was a financial journalist, and she has held leadership roles at the World Policy Institute and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

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