Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!

Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead! – David Farragut

Even crossing the street, there is risk. Using the cross-walk and crossing with the light both help to minimize the risk. Or you could just stay on that side of the street.

What does that mean?
This quote is apparently a contraction of a series of orders given by Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. Generally accepted as the original statement is “Damn the torpedoes!” said Farragut, “Four bells. Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!

This command was given in the Battle of Mobile Bay, where the lead ship of convoy was sunk by an underwater mine (which were called torpedoes back then). Realizing that his mission would surely be lost without some inspiration, he gave the order for his ships to move forward, despite the risk.

Then, as now, mines are often more a psychological weapon than an actual threat. By destroying one ship, the defenders almost blunted the attack and survived. Instead, in a calculated but risky move, the Admiral and his forces were able to sail into the bay without any further loss of ships, and take the harbor forts, and therefore the harbor.

Why is the taking of risks important?  
While I suppose you could say that staying at home and not doing much of anything is one way to avoid risk, but there are risks involved in a solitary and introverted life. There is just no escaping risk.

There is always something ready to happen, however unlikely it may seem. Meteorites, plane crashes, fires, all are possibilities, however remote they may be. That is a risk.

Unless you plan to live your life based on actuarial tables, and minimize the risks mathematically, you’re going to have to go into the real world and deal with risk. The more often you take risks, the more often you can collect data on what works and what does not.

By taking small, calculated, risks, you can start to build your own tables about risk. You can begin to understand what you can and cannot safely do, and therefore avoid unnecessary risks.

That said, there may come a time when you have to put it on the line and take that risk. It would be nice if you have some way of estimating what your chances were, and to know what you could do to help shift the odds in your favor, right?

Where can I apply this in my life?
You already have. When you learned to crawl, to walk, to run, to climb stairs, and when you learned to ride a bike, these were all risky steps for someone who didn’t know how. You also took social and intellectual risks. Can you get that toy away from that other kid? Well, you could from some, but not from others. You were already learning to manage risk.

If you are walking, riding a bicycle, driving a car, or even while taking a bus, you are constantly analyzing risks. What’s happening in traffic, whether it be other vehicles, or other people. Who seems scary (based on their behavior)? How do you minimize the risk you think they might pose?

I considered sky diving to be far too risky for me. It didn’t help that the consequence of any significant failure was rather on the permanent side. Eventually I decided to do it. A person I knew and respected had been a dive master in the military and personally checked out the facility.

With that confidence, I felt safe taking the risk of a tandem dive. And then my camera man ended up with a chute malfunction, landing on his reserve chute. Ever the professional, the camera man got everything together and still filmed my landing.

The lesson I learned about risk from this particular instance was that risk can be managed, and that having a PlanB was a very good idea. It also reminded me that practicing for known risks and how to recover from them was important.

What are you not doing because you feel it is too risky? It might be a physical risk, an emotional risk, a social risk, or anything else you might be avoiding. Sky diving, asking someone out, asking for a raise at work, these are all possible risks, for those with their eyes on the worst possible outcome.

While the worst does occasionally occur, it’s rarely the most likely. And if you do your homework, you can keep the risks to a minimum. Typically, the more you know, the better you understand the problem, and the easier it is to assess the odds of the different failure modes, and therefore the possible consequences.

And remember, if you focus on the worst possible outcome, you will be less likely to take the risk. If you focus on what must be done, the risk becomes part of doing business. And sometimes, there isn’t a risk-free path for you to take.

Acting out of fear and ignorance doesn’t sound like a fulfilling life to me. Weigh the possibilities, then take a risk.

From: Twitter, @USNavy
confirmed at : http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Who_said_’Damn_the_torpedoes_Full_speed_ahead’
Photo by Ed Yourdon

Happy Birthday to Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, born 5 July, 1801.

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  1. Fort Gaines - Battle of Mobile Bay - 1977 - EvintagePhotos - 3 August 2014

    […] of Mobile Bay from August 2-23, 1864. Union Admiral David G. Farragut took his fleet into the bay, uttered his famous line, forced Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan, and all three forts to surrender. This battle […]

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