(Excerpt by neurosurgeon Ben Carson, with Gregg Lewis, from Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk.)
Live Outside the Envelope
You don't go into a field that requires cracking people's heads open or operating on something as delicate as the spinal cord unless you are comfortable with taking risks.
Every day I make critical, split-second decisions that affect the longevity and the quality of other people's lives. Taking such risks gives me pause. It forces me to think about my own life and the risks I face. Those experiences enable me to move forward and avoid becoming paralyzed by fear. As a result, I probably do a lot of things that more cautious people would never attempt.
'Why risk?' I responded. 'It should be, why not risk?'
[Once an] interviewer on National Public Radio asked me how, as a doctor and as a human being, I could take so many risks — such as separating conjoined twins, girls joined at their heads. "Why risk?" I responded. "It should be, why not risk?"
Anyone who refuses to test his limits, anyone unwilling to move out of her comfort zone, is destined to live life inside the envelope. The most important developments in science, history, technology, and the arts came from taking risks...
Ben Carson, MD, during a lower-risk moment on the job. Photo courtesy Chris Gardner/AP.
[I use the following] simple risk analysis exercise ... whenever I face an uncertain situation — in my professional or personal life. It's a quick and practical guide that can help anyone answer these questions: "When should I take a risk?" and "What should I risk?"
The Best/Worst Risk Analysis Formula
The Best/Worst Analysis (B/WA) formula...
What is the best thing that can happen if I do this?
What is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?
What is the best thing that can happen if I don't do it?
What is the worst thing that can happen if I don't do it?
In those cases for which the formula seems insufficient, try answering the basic questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why. Who will be most affected by the decisions? Who else will be affected? How will the decision affect me? ...
The (B/WA) Formula Applied: Faith in the Workplace
Here is how I assess the risk of integrating faith in my medical practice. What is the worst that could happen? I could offend someone. And if I offend the wrong person, I guess I could be fired.
What is the best that could happen? I would be the same person and true to myself regardless of whether I am home, at work, or wherever. I can use my God-given abilities and talents in ways to edify others and God. If my motive is to please God in every area of my life, then I don't have to waste a lot of energy worrying about how people might react.
What is the worst that could happen if I decide not to integrate faith and work? My life would be out of balance, and I would be at odds with myself. I'd feel like a hypocrite and would probably eventually have to make a choice either to abandon my faith or risk being more open about it.
What is the best that could happen if I decide not to integrate faith and work? Actually, there is no best scenario with this option...
I don't believe [God] ever intends us to cram truth down people's throats. Nor does he want us to cower when opportunities arise.
How to integrate faith and work is a difficult process for many because the risk sometimes results in opposition, injustice, and criticism. I often pray with my patients, but only if they ask me to. That is a much different approach than praying whether the family wants it or not. There is something to be said for wisdom or discernment, and we can all reduce the risk of living out our faith at work if we use a little of both.
- Ben Carson
Learn more about Take the Risk.
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