Dangerous, but not scary

Written on May 30, 2021

There are plenty of things that are scary but aren’t dangerous. And there are things that are dangerous but not scary. And those are the things that get you.

I’ve been reading Guy Raz’s book, How I Built This and this quote from Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer Company really stuck out to me.

Jim was describing the difference between him staying in his well-paid job prior to finding the Boston Beer Company versus creating a new craft beer and bringing it to the world through Boston Beer Company.

Jim Koch, then goes on to share a climbing analogy from his time as an instructor for Outward Bound—an organization that provides outdoor education to youth and adults—to really drive the point home.

One of the things we taught people to do was rappel off a cliff. It is a very scary thing to do, but you are also held by a belay rope, and that rope would hold a car. So walking off the cliff backwards is scary, but it’s not dangerous. Walking across a thirty-five-degree-angle snowfield on a beautiful late May afternoon with bright blue sky, on the other hand, is not scary at all, but it is very dangerous, because the snow is melting, eventually it is going to find a layer of ice, the water will lubricate that ice, and then you have an avalanche. That is dangerous but not scary.

When I read this and reflected on things that I take caution in, I realized, that I wasn’t discerning between dangerous versus scary. There definitely is a distinction and I think when you are able to clearly see the difference, then you can make the decision to move forward.

I think, often times, I see a situation and the fear for what lies ahead causes anxiety. But being able to stop and ask, “well is it scary?” or “is it dangerous?” is a very empowering reflection.

A lot of things might seem scary, but ultimately they won’t cause harm. While those things that are dangerous but isn’t scary, are the true things to avoid in life or get away from as quickly as possible.

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