What is the riskiest thing you have ever done in your life? You know, something you did where you truly faced the prospect of dying. What is redlining a motorcycle around a blind curve at night? Climbing one of the Seven Summits? Or was it diving deep in the open ocean in your scuba gear? Or was it maybe even jumping out of a plane with only your parachute saving you from a free-fall?

Admittedly, those all do sound like risky endeavors. But it turns out those activities don't even compare to other things you might be doing on a daily basis that are putting your life in danger. That's according to fascinating research conducted by Vaclav Smil. In his book, Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next 50 Years, he calculated the activities any of us might undertake that have the best chances of killing us per hour of exposure to that activity.

Smil's answers might surprise you.

1. Go to the Hospital

For example, did you know the riskiest thing you can do hands down is go to a hospital? And it's not whatever brought you in a gurney that will kill you: it's the risk of suffering a secondary infection or catching some other disease that will do you in. There is around 1 death per 10,000 hours of exposure in a hospital.

That means, if you want to cut down on the riskiest thing you can do in your life, stay out of the hospital if at all possible!

2. Smoke Cigarettes

The second riskiest thing you can do is smoke. That's pretty interesting considering how many people you still see outside of bars or cooped up in those wall-in rooms in the airport lighting up. If you consider that even riding a motorcycle is safer than smoking, it might be time to make some different choices. There is one death per 100,000 hours of exposure to smoking cigarettes.

3. Drive a Car

There are plenty of people who are scared of flying, let alone actually jumping of one, right? Only crazy people do that. Well did you know it's far more likely that you'll die in a car accident on your way to the airport than you would in taking a skydiving class? Food for thought. Driving a car is only slightly less risky than smoking cigarettes - and yet we do it without even thinking about the risk.

4. Increase Your Cardio Vascular Risk

The fourth riskiest thing you can do is hit fast-food restaurants on a daily basis and watch too much TV. Put another way, the fatter and less active you become, the better the chances are that you'll suffer some form of cardiovascular disease. Yes, genetics also plays a role. But again, why not do your best to even the odds by eating better and making time to exercise? This risk accounts for just under 1,000,000 deaths a year.

5. Catch the Flu

I can imagine you're now trying to guess what the next answer will be. Maybe you're thinking it's an earthquake, a blizzard, a tornado, or a hurricane? Nope. Turns out that your more than one-thousand times more likely to die from influenza--the flu--than from any natural disaster. That means all those people who worry about the "Big One" should really just be making sure they get their annual flu shot instead. And getting the flu is only slightly ahead of dying due to a fall. Both are about a one death per million hours of exposure - or just under 10,000 deaths a year.

My point in sharing these insights isn't to scare you straight or to get you to make any major life changes. Rather, I wanted to illustrate how poorly most of us assess risk in our personal lives--and the same is true when it comes to what we do in our businesses.

In one of my upcoming posts, I'll share my insights with you about the riskiest things you're doing in your business. And again, I think you might be surprised by the answers.

 

Published on: Oct 21, 2015