Why we do not take risks

As I begin my expedition into the world of startups and entrepreneurship, I have been frequently asked the same question/concern : Starting up is a huge risk, why don’t you mitigate it by doing something else first?


The TL;DR answer to which is always the same : One cannot get the experience to run a company unless one starts and runs a company. Anyway, listening to so many people question taking risks, made me want to go deeper into the reasons of Why as a species we avoid taking risks.

The 2 main culprits who impair our ability to take any risk are :

  1. Fear of Being Wrong
  2. Impact Bias and the Pre Frontal Cortex

We hate being wrong. Most of us hate and constantly fear it. The reason behind this is simple, all through our education, we have been told from various ends that people who get things wrong / make mistakes are going to have trouble “succeeding in life”. This makes us strive for lesser mistakes. Wrong lesson learnt. How ironic.

This majorly inhibits our creative process.

“To lead a creative life we must lose the fear of being wrong” – Joseph Chilton Pearce

But the puck doesn’t stop here. Let me move onto how we are wired on the inside.


Source : Wired

Pre Frontal Cortex is a vital region of the brain which regulates thought in terms of both short-term and long-term decision making. It allows humans to plan ahead. Turns out that the pre frontal cortex does a lot of things but the most important function is that of a simulator. Just like pilots practice in flight simulators so that they don’t make real mistakes in planes, we humans have this marvelous adaptation that we can simulate things before trying them out in real life. Dan Gilbert (Professor of Psychology at Harvard University) found out in their labs about a particular tendency called the “Impact Bias” which causes this simulator to work badly.

According to me, this very tendency is applicable to our risk taking abilities as well.

What is Impact Bias?

The impact bias is our tendency to overestimate our emotional reaction to future events. Research shows that most of the time we don’t feel as bad as we expect to when things go wrong. Now it seems obvious, how the impact bias can affect our simulations of the future based on the risk prone decisions we are going to take.

According to me, correcting for the Impact Bias and removing the fear of being wrong can lead to wonderful things. It can increase our risk taking ability and make us more creative, respectively. Both are things one needs in abundance while starting up a new venture.

So, what leap of faith are you taking today ?








One thought on “Why we do not take risks

  1. TheWisdomOfThePsychopath says:

    Reading this post has surely made me introspect.Firstly,I would like to congratulate you on an amazing concept. Secondly, I think I will make some changes now.

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