Which Risks are Right?

Reflections on Chapter 73 of the Tao Te Ching:

Team of Rock Climbers

Risky courage leads to death.
Cautious courage leads to self-preservation.

Bravery is sometimes advantageous
and sometimes harmful.

Who knows why things are not favored by Heaven?
Even the sage does not know this.

The way of Tao does not compete
but always overcomes.

It does not use words
but always gets the message across.

It does not ask
but it always gets what it needs.

Carried off without a plan,
it remains perfectly designed.

The vast net of Heaven has many holes,
yet nothing slips through.


The good risk is the one where there is a part of you
that is scared to do it, but you know it will be good.

My husband, my daughter and I went downhill skiing a few weeks ago. My daughter and I were on the bunny hill and we were talking about fear. I told her, “Fear talks very loudly sometimes, but once you walk through the fear, it’s not so bad.” For some risks, you feel guilty because it is either dangerous or you shouldn’t be doing it. For others, it makes you feel proud. You feel good about yourself after doing them.


You don’t have to let your fear decide what you are going to do or not do.


You can just do things and not worry about the fact that you haven’t done it before because you know that the end result is going to be that you are fine! Some things are just difficult. How do you do know which things are risky/dangerous and which things are just your fear talking?


You have to just face your fears and decide…who am I going to be here?


Whatever you decide to do, you are not making that decision just for yourself. Nothing that you decide is just for you. Everything that you do is a model for the world. Every choice that you make is a statement of who you are being in that moment.

Who do you want to be?

If you are being risky, you may be throwing your life away. Other people bear witness to this. If you have children, they may model after you. (It is always most difficult to see our own weaknesses show up in our children!) There are risks that we may take for granted that are quite dangerous risks for future generations to come. We are taking risks every day with the food that we eat and the things we consume and throw away. Do we really need that fourth sweatshirt or, in my case, that tenth pair of shoes? Not really. Do we really need that piece of pie?

We really have to ask ourselves, who do I want to be here…in this life?

One thing I loved that Laura said in our interview the other day was that,  if you add everything up, it doesn’ t seem like much but every little bit that you do is so important. You are making a difference and you are changing the world. Some risks are good and some are not so good. Some risks help out humanity like volunteering at a food shelf or filling your car with snack baggies for homeless people. Then there are the obvious risks like risking your life with dangerous activities and then there are the more subtle (negative) risks like over-consuming and over-eating, which are so common these days.

There is no guilt.

It is really important that you don’t read this and click away from this page feeling guilty. That is not my goal. Guilt serves no one. Don’t worry about what you’ve done up until today EVER. Just start right now and make the changes that will have you feel better about your life. It’s pretty simple, really.

Just do it!


What do you think? Did you play the guilt game with yourself here? What would you like to change? Share with us in the comments below.



  1. Hi Amy, the only thing we need to fear is fear itself. I cant remember who said it but it just makes so much sense.if we listen to our fears they will keep us ordinary, make us fit in, feel safer but we will never connect with our true selves, find our life purpose, make friends who support in our journey or make a difference. We will live half a life and have to live with our regrets no thanks, like the book says “Feel the fear and do it anyway. Great post Amy, thank you for sharing.
    Athena Brady recently posted…Athena Bradys Febuary 2013 Book Review’sMy Profile

  2. A thought-provoking essay Amy. I’m really struck by your comment “It’s always most difficult to see our weaknesses show up in our children.” You had me thinking about what weaknesses I carry that I can clearly see were also carried by my parents. That’s a very powerful perspective.

    I like how you spoke to your daughter about fear having a loud voice. I think that’s a very helpful way to look at it – when we’re able to acknowledge fear as the voice that is trying to prevent us from harming ourselves, it can become easier to give ourselves a bit of distance to then decide whether there is an actual danger involved in the decision at hand.
    Deborah Weber recently posted…Miscellany: H is for…My Profile

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Deborah. Some patterns get carried from generation to generation to generation, unconsciously. One of the things that is so helpful about studying the Tao Te Ching is this awareness that you develop of your patterns. Although awareness does not really correct the issue, it is certainly a good start. It gives you the power to do something about it.
      amy recently posted…Tao Tuesdays: Chapter 73My Profile

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