COVID-19 and Calculated Risk


After our first daughter was born we learned and lived the important concept of calculated risk. Life became a moment by moment adventure in examining the cost and benefits of letting her try new things. Risk was everywhere and the fragility of life was front and center. 

When she started to stand and wobble, should we catch her or let her fall? When she first started to talk, would we let her struggle or try to help her before she finished her words?  When she fell on the playground, did we rush to pick her up or did we let her build resilience by standing on her own?

Every step outside of our homes is an exercise in calculated risk. In Israel, the country where I live, we are in total lockdown. We’re told not to go beyond 100 meters from our home unless it is absolutely essential. This puts the decision to walk the dog or visit the grocery store through a matrix of evaluation and meditation.

Today, for the first time, I ventured out of the house with the paper mask on. Of course, I’ve seen other people do it. I know that people around the world make a decision every day to put one on. It struck me that every trip out of the house now is a calculated risk.

At the grocery store, I was far too alert to whether someone might cough near me or whether I might pick up an apple that someone else grabbed and put down. I would never know exactly who used the shopping cart before me. There was a voice in my head asking if all this really worth risking my life or the lives of my family?

As a small business owner, I feel like every day for the last 20 years has been a calculated risk. It’s always a risk to hire people. It’s a journey to help employees grow. It’s a leap of faith to lend your reputation you’ve built to others who then take out into the world and serve clients. But every day for 20 years we successfully navigated this risk and we’ve done ok. 

But now the stakes are higher and these risks more onerous. When my company debated whether or not to encourage our team to work from home, we had no idea that just a few days later it would become mandatory. What about our rent? Would we still serve our clients successfully? I guess that’s part of the calculated risk.

Our clients are also juggling the same calculated risks. Some of them are even responsible for delivering healthcare to the public right now  – at this very moment where every day going to work involves a calculated risk, one that I can’t even imagine having to make.

Right now, the struggle is all-too-real for small businesses. I spoke to a friend today and encouraged him to just be kind to himself. These are days where answers are few and far between and the risk increases on all sides. 

Each of us is making a whole new set of calculations with every step, every interaction, and every decision. There’s no possible way we could have all the right answers. 

Now that we live in Israel, my daughter often hops a bus to visit NCSY friends in cities distant from ours. Every time she does, I revert to that young father struggling with the calculations of risk. Parenting still means balancing her vulnerability and our desire to let her flourish.

Routine as we know it has been tossed in the air.  Risk, always everpresent, now rides shotgun on every adventure outside our homes. Life remains as frail and fleeting as ever. Even with the harsh new reality provided by our current challenge, my learning continues that every decision still comes with a calculated risk.

About the Author
Dan is a veteran public relations, political communications and media strategist. He founded Full Court Press Communications 20 years ago. He is also the host of Mindful Work - a podcast at the intersection of Mindfulness, Jewish Thought, and Business. He resides in Israel.
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