Three Unexpected Books That Refined My Risk Analysis Process
You might have heard about the buckets analogy: we all have 2 buckets. One is (hopefully) full of luck but has a leak, and the other is an empty experience bucket. The idea is that it is only a matter of time before the luck bucket runs out, so the goal is to fill the experience bucket before that happens.
Learning about risk assessment in extreme sports can be challenging, as this subject is rarely, if ever, discussed . So here are three books recommendations that may contribute to adding to your experience bucket. These books may not be specifically about risk assessment, but they've certainly helped me gain a better understanding of how to make better decisions.
Here they are:
1- "On Combat" by Dave Grossman.
It seems like the place where the psychology of stress has been the most studied is in combat situations, by the army and law enforcement. The book develops various subjects which are not necessarily helpful for risk assessment such as the psychology of killing but it also goes in-depth with what happens to the human body under the stresses of deadly battle and the impact on the nervous system, heart, breathing, memory, visual and auditory perception, which is spot on with what we experience in extreme sports, just with less blood ... hopefully.
2-"Fool by Randomness" By Nassim Thaleb
This book explains how luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making work together to influence our actions, and uncover how much bigger the role of chance in our lives is than we usually believe. It is mostly directed towards business and investing, where the worst thing that can happen is bankruptcy, but it is quite easy to connect the dots with extreme sports simply by replacing the word bankruptcy with crippling injuries or death.
3-"How emotions are made" By Lisa Feldman Barrett
The less obvious book concerning risk assessment, but it offered me a total reframing of where our emotions come from and how it will affect our decision-making.
The author makes the argument that emotions don't exist objectively in nature and they aren't pre-programmed in our brains and bodies; instead, they are psychological experiences that each of us constructs based on our unique personal history, physiology, and environment. She also introduces me to the "predictive brain theory" which says our brains make sense of the world by predicting what we will see and then updating these predictions as the situation demands. In my opinion, such a theory is a game-changer about how we should approach life-threatening situations as the feeling of fear (or the lack of it) has nothing to do with the actual level of risk of a given situation.
Refining our risk assessment skills should be a never-ending work in progress. Unfortunately, the general wisdom around it in extreme sports is very low-key and not explicitly taught as a mandatory skill to master before exposing ourselves to potential irreversible situations. I hope this blog post will inspire you to develop a more refined risk assessment and decision-making system and I would be really happy if you leave in the comment some other book recommendations or sources of information on this topic.