Safety Strategies for Young Men

Trevor Benedict and Dave Braun Approach Mount Muir's East Buttress

Traditionally we implore young men to take fewer risks. Understandably so—accidents are the number one killer of men from their teens to their early thirties. I, however, would like to take a slightly different approach. I encourage you to take risks.

Big ones.

This is no joke. You've been designed by nature to take risks, and any attempt by me or anyone else to persuade you otherwise is not merely misguided—it is cruel.

You should be out there taking risks, daily, and scaring the hell out of yourself. That's your job, right now, if you haven't figured that out already. Including risks with potentially life-altering consequences.

Especially those.

My recommendation is don't fight the impulse. Embrace it, even. But maybe also hack it a little. Make it work for you, rather than the reverse. Because nobody says you have to take risks with lousy payoffs.

You're the only one who can decide what's important to you, obviously, so that's something you might want to work on. Figure out what matters to you. And ask yourself: is placing this bet likely to move me in that direction?

If the answer is no, maybe move to another table.

In addition to making your risk-taking impulses work for you, you can also hack another of Mother Nature's programs: she built you to be a protector. Fine, you're thinking, I've got nothing to protect right now—that's what all this risky business is about in the first place.

Getting something worth having.

But here's the thing: if you develop a knack for figuring out what's important to you, you'll find all sorts of opportunities to protect it. Example: you and your partners are skinning up in the backcountry on a February powder day. What's there to protect?

How about your partners?

Do they matter to you? How about changing the rules of your internal game so you win status by keeping them safe? You'd have to actually keep them safe and not just compete with them. But if you could: would that be a sneaky way to hack Mother Nature?

It just might.

And you can also play this game down in the valleys.

If you really want to scare yourself, that's where the opportunities are: where people live and work. Compete for status in ways that directly benefit other people. If the Elephant hypothesis is true, that might take off some of the self-deception pressure. So you can be yourself.

You'd probably even get paid for it.

— January 18, 2024

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents

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