A crash on the stage – and what it tells us

When I was 16, I learned an important lesson the hard way: I was with my friends romping around on the stage of our local theatre where my friend had to prepare the stage for the show next day. Somehow, we thought it would be a good idea to hang on the bar which carried the lighting spots while another guy was operating the pulley dragging this bar up to 6 m in height. The bar was so thick in diameter that I couldn’t fully clasp it with my hands and I was starting to feel uneasy when I saw my feet gaining ever more distance to the ground. I wouldn’t be able to hold on to the bar much longer and the bar was continuing to be lifted higher and higher still. I thought I would have to swing myself up to the bar like gymnast’s bar upswing to get my body on top of the bar. I was considering the pros and cons as the upswing was also risky – I would have to change my position and who knows what could happen during the transition …

You surely know what happened: I fell! All of a sudden – while I was still considering risk scenarios, my hands’ grip failed, and I crashed to the ground. Luckily, I was able to absorb the impact by a cunning roll-over and got away without major hurt.

Sometimes, things are inevitable. We see them coming and still remain reluctant and passive – although we know that this cannot come out with a good ending. Why the hell are we intelligent enough to see things coming and at the same time stupid enough not to react accordingly?

The answer is buried deep inside our archaic psyche: we are naturally averse to risk. We fear losing U$ 1000 much more than we enjoy winning the same U$ 1000. Our stone-age brain tells us: “don’t move – you never know what happens then!” Well, after ten thousand years of cultural development we should be smarter, shouldn’t we? Of course there is a risk associated with change and transition. But comparing that risk to today’s seemingly risk-free situation is just self-deception. The right comparison would be between the transition risk and the risk of the future situation as it would be if we don’t make the transition! And that can make a huge difference!

Yours truly
Matthias Mersmann
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