Much of what makes life challenging is finding ways to get the highest rewards with the lowest risk.
The problem with avoiding risk completely is it can become a risk itself. Taking a new job offer can be a risk. Agreeing to go on a first date can be a risk. Moving to a new neighborhood can be a risk.
The average person plays things relatively safe by following conventional wisdom. If something seems to work for most people who try it, you can assume it is “low risk” and proceed down that path. The downside of playing it too safe is diminishing returns. Low risk usually means low reward.
Anyone who goes to a casino to gamble will usually limit their gambling to what they can afford to lose. As a result, there likelihood of a big win is small, and they might walk away having lost a small amount of money or won a small amount of money. This is where playing it safe usually leads. You get average results. And to most people, average is good enough.
Anyone who seeks higher than average results needs to be prepared to take on higher than average risks. Many people don’t understand why some people engage in risky behavior to begin with. It seems “stupid” to most people. However, this kind of behavior is why humanity is so successful. Had everyone always played it safe, we might all still be living in the stone age.
The question every individual person must answer is whether to spend their entire life playing it safe or whether to occasionally take very large risks. The answer to this question depends on what kind of life the individual person wants. If you are content with an average life, then there is no rational reason to ever take a large risk. However, if an average life is your idea of misery, then a large risk might be necessary.
From a big picture perspective, a person who spends their life chasing a dream that is never realized will usually still be happier on average than a person who never attempts their dreams and chooses instead to follow the safer road already traveled.
In many cases, taking a big risk becomes the best path when there is no better alternative. The fear of regret must surpass the fear or failure. Maybe documenting dangerous wildlife is your calling. You might be someone with a strong desire to walk among lions in the wild. Maybe for you, going your entire life without ever walking among wild lions would be devastating and you would regret it on your death bed. Therefore, it is a worthy risk.
People often forget that death is inevitable. Every path in life, no matter how smart or stupid, and no matter how safe or risky... eventually leads to the grave. Wise people understand this. Life is not a destination; it is a journey from birth to death.
The biggest risk you can ever take in life is not living it on your own terms. When you don’t live on your own terms, your life is not yours. It belongs to someone else. It belongs to whomever created the terms under which you are living. And thus, your life can feel meaningless.