Customer Reviews: Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk
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on January 1, 2008
Dr. Carson has written many books, but his recent book (2008) "Take The Risk" is a page turner. Once you open this book it is difficult to put it down. I enjoyed this book immensely. It is the best book Dr. Carson has written. His comprehensive analysis of risks, Best/Worst Analysis,(B/WA) is thorough yet simple. I highly recommend this book. His description of his experiences with Laleh and Ladan Bijani, 21-year-old twins that were conjoined at the back of the head, were very moving, and it showed that he takes appropriate risks everyday in his profession as a pediatric neurosurgeon, and we should too.
He described how to determine whether to take the risk, or play it safe. For example, on pages 188-189, he described how he used his analysis to determine what to do about his youngest son's driving habits. His son had crashed the car twice. He said "But if ever a situation required some careful risk analysis, this was it. So Candy and I discussed the issue thoroughly." They did a B/WA on this topic, something that many people can relate to. In the end, they decided that he was responsible for getting himself to and from wherever he wanted to go, but his son decided that he would get a ride from a sibling or friend.
Dr. Carson, thank you for the gift of this book and for sharing your wisdom with us.
Jonece Layne, Carson Scholar - Beltsville, Maryland
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on February 14, 2008
This is a very good book on how to approach the decision making process in our personal and professional lives with greater awareness, clarity and wisdom. Ben Carson is truly an inspirational figure who knows something about risk. As a world-renowned neurosurgeon, he routinely faces risky life threatening decisions. Growing up in the tenements of Boston and Detroit he achieved success through faith, and hard work that leveraged considerable gifts, but also through a willingness to take on risks in his personal and professional life.
In this book he offers some lessons about how to perceive risk and eliminate distorted thinking that can cloud the process. He takes the reader through a simple framework that is powerful because of its simplicity. He also provides numerous examples of how he used this framework to deal with tough issues he has faced as a doctor, a parent and a concerned citizen. Some key points:

· Everything has risk including getting up in the morning and going to work.
· People develop distorted perceptions of risk that vary widely from actual probabilities.
· These distorted perceptions inhibit people from taking acceptable risks that can greatly enhance their life.
· Distorted perceptions can also lead to foolish decisions that can cause catastrophic results.
· A simple framework that explores the best and worst potential outcomes of any decision can be a powerful aid in minimizing biased and distorted thinking and provide greater clarity in decisions.
· The framework should be based on a strong value system that is centered on others rather than self.

Tightly bound to his framework is his powerful Christian faith, which he believes reinforces his simple framework by weighing outcomes on the basis of key Christian values. Even though the book has many references to the bible it does not have a preachy proselytizing tone. Quite the contrary, Dr. Carson's attitudes communicate tolerance and acceptance. There are plenty of books that provide more detail and rigor on risk and decision making along with prescriptions on how to improve the process--"Decision Traps" is one of my favorites. If you are looking for rigor and detail, this book will leave you wanting, however I found Dr. Carson's book a pragmatic guide that also provides a great deal of inspiration.
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on June 17, 2008
ben carson, in case you haven't heard of him (i'd only vaguely heard of him), is a world renowned neurosurgeon. i mean, world-renowned, like, he's one of the top pediatric neurosurgeons in the world. and, he's probably the number one neuro-dude when it comes to separating conjoined twins, joined at the skull. oh, and he grew up in a poor, single mom, household, on the tough streets of detroit.

so it's fair to say the guy knows a thing or two about considering risk.

this book is a story-rich explanation of how to consider risk, and how to make risky decisions. it's especially worth the read for anyone struggling to make a tough decision, and i've already recommended it to a couple people.

there are a few places where i felt the book wandered a bit -- i didn't think it was helpful to hear the long-ish excursions into the author's politics (deep into the book, and neither helpful nor necessary) as examples of risk.

BUT, the book has two significant strengths:

1. it is full of wonderful stories. seriously. rarely have i read a book with a single propositional or methodological point that has so many engaging stories. we see carson's risk-consideration formula played out in dozens and dozens of examples -- from his own life, and in the world around us. examples from his childhood, and lots of examples from the risk-filled world of pediatric neurosurgery. carson's a good storyteller (honed, i'm guessing, over years of speaking to teenagers -- nothing hones storytelling skill like speaking to audiences who aren't impressed by your resume), and effectively wields this throughout the entire book.

2. carson unveils a simple, yet very helpful, process for considering and deciding on risk. he calls it the bwa, or best-worst-analysis. many of us, i'm sure, when attempting to make a difficult decision, have made lists of pros and cons. carson's bwa approach is similar, but takes things a bit further. simply put, the bwa is:

- what's the best that can happen if i do this?

- what's the worst that can happen if i do this?

- what's the best that can happen if i don't do this?

- what's the worst that can happen if i don't do this?

of course, he gives chapters full of nuance to this. but i have actually found myself using this little memorable (the fact that it is simple and memorable is part of its strength) approach since i've been reading the book, a bit at a time, over the past month or so.

carson also ties all of this in with his christian faith. he doesn't overdo this point (i assume carson has gone into this in more detail in some of his earlier books), which is good. but it is very interesting to hear some of his story (again, great examples of considering risk, in stories like the one where he considers whether or not to be a part of a panel on science and faith at a prestigious gathering of minds), especially given his scientific cred.

anyhow, take the risk is a helpful book. it's not a "you must rush out and read this now" book. but it's helpful, and an enjoyable read thanks to the stories. it's one i'll continue to recommend to people who are struggling to make a decision.
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on August 8, 2009
What happens to a society that is so fearful of risk, that common sense seems to go right out the window so often? The answer is that we live in a world where McDonald's has to put "Warning: Coffee is hot" on its coffee cups to head off silly lawsuits. And beach-goers drive hundreds of miles to get to the beach -- only to avoid swimming in the ocean because of an irrational fear of sharks [when in fact you're statistically far more likely to be killed in a car accident while driving to and from that same beach].

More importantly, society in general, and individuals in particular, miss out on opportunities to do the types of great things that only come from taking calculated risks. That's primary thrust of the book by Dr. Ben Carson - the famous pediatric neurosurgeon at John Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore.

If you've read any of his previous books (such as "Gifted Hands"), you probably already have a good idea of his rough background being raised by a poor, single mother in the ghettos of Detroit. And indeed, Dr. Carson does go over much of his past in this book, as well as how he overcame adversity and low expectations, to become the world-famous neurosurgeon he is today. However, in this book, he looks back at his past decisions in life through the prism of the risks he took -- and how they often paid off.

I highly recommend this book as a concise guide on how to arrive at good decisions using risk analysis as a primary tool. The main idea behind this book is that despite our best efforts, life is itself risky -- to wit, it is virtually impossible to eliminate all risk in life.

However, we can choose to realize that not all risks are necessarily bad, and that the secret to living life fully is by choosing to take acceptable risks. And quite often, these risks can yield incredible rewards.

Dr. Carson provides a matrix for determining what risk is acceptable, called "Best/Worst Analysis." Specifically, by answering the following questions in an informed way, it will be vastly easier to handle risk and make informed decisions:

- What is the best thing that can happen if I do this?
- What is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?
- What is the best thing that can happen if I don't do this?
- What is the worst thing that can happen if I don't this?

Dr. Carson then proceeds to show how he has applied this type of risk analysis in his life, with very positive results. He also provides anecdotal evidence for how this means of decision-making can also lead to creative and innovative solutions to long-standing problems in our own lives and in government.

I should note that Dr. Carson's book also is infused with a spiritual perspective that comes from his Christian background -- which I definitely appreciate. That said, I think that his book "Take the Risk" is one of the most refreshing and helpful books I've read thus far on the important topics of risk analysis and decision-making.
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on July 1, 2008
You don't have to be a brain surgeon to know life is an uninterrupted sequence of guaranteed risks. Ben Carson, in Take the Risk takes his role as a neurosurgeon up a notch as he reveals how operating in sync with your grey matter will draw you toward diving into the risks that are worth taking and passing on the ones that take you on a downward spiral.

He acknowledges that everything is risky. Even to resolve to do nothing can be a hazardous choice. Tied to real life stories as concrete proof, he proposes we apply what he calls Best/Worst Analysis to the options we face. Simple enough that a child can easily adopt, it asks these 4 questions: What is the BEST thing that can happen if I DO this, what is the WORST thing that can happen if I DO this, what is the BEST thing that can happen if I DON'T do this, and what is the WORST thing that can happen if I DON'T do this. For those more complex questions, he recommends we consider who, what, where, when, why and how in the context of the Best/Worst Analysis application. He advocates that removing our egos from the equation often leads to the best answer by replacing emotional investment with logical thinking. What works every time with this model is that it causes you to pause and think before you make your move...or choose to stay put.

Take the Risk uncovers the evidence that by using your brain to bring risk factors into sharp focus, fear and foolishness drift out of the picture. The result is a vibrant illustration of an exciting life made possible by the brush of intelligent risk taking. Ben Carson makes the point that when we zoom into what defines success, we find that it involves risks taken and overcome. So get yourself into the picture, read Take the Risk, and imagine using your insight to capture your wisest decisions.
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on April 27, 2008
Remarkable book on a remarkable human being. I was as fascinated reading about his mom as I was about him. Wish he would do a book honoring her further. Truly both are overcomers in a hostile, unfeeling world about them. Proof that the American Dream does still produce those willing to first, dream it, then DO IT!
John McCullough
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on February 14, 2008
Ben Carson's life is such an inspiration. This book lets us in on some of the reasons for his professional and personal success. We all have to take risks and Dr. Carson takes plenty of them in his career as well as living as black man in a culture and in an area where it can't be easy! I found this book to be very challenging and inspirational. I also found it to be very informative -- like sitting at a kitchen table and learning from the master. Carson and Lewis' books are always entralling -- I can't put them down. I read them straight through at one sitting. I find the stories absolutely captivating and Carson's character comes through in such an authentic way -- no preaching and no patronizing, just a clear view of the man behind the incredible career and fascinating life. I recommend the book without hesitation. It is the kind of book people ought to buy for their kids -- to show the vast possibilities for meaningful personal and professional accomplishment when you apply yourself and trust God to lead and direct your life.
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on October 13, 2015
I thought this might be a book written for his campaign but I was wrong. It's a bit of an autobiography that is terribly honest in quite interesting. He does not sugar coat his life but owns his failures too. I recommend this for anyone who wants to learn who Ben Carson is and who wants a good model for evaluating risk. Carson is a remarkable American who overcame terrible odds to become a world class neurosurgeon and human being.
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on June 25, 2015
Ben Carson's book Gifted Hands got me hooked on reading this book on Risk. Risk is something we all live with. Do we cringe and run? Or do we assess the questions and think things through? Dr Carson is thought provoking with his simple yet elegant tool to judge the issues at hand. This book gave me insight into working through problems. And his humble recounting of several of his own dilemmas and his thought process let me peek at what makes him such a winsome and winning man. Good book!
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on June 11, 2008
I admit it - I am not much of a risk taker. So when I found the book, Take the Risk, by Ben Carson, I was intrigued to see what advice I could glean from this M.D.

Dr Carson points out that life itself is a risk. We need discernment on what risks we need to do something about, and Dr Carson gives guidance with his Best/Worse Analysis questions. By using these questions as a guide, we can decide about risk based on our own life experience.

The chapter Parenting Perils itself is worth the price of the book. If you are a parent concerned about where this generation of children are heading, this chapter will give you some invaluable guides as to what you need to be doing now for your kids.

Take the Risk includes some fascinating stories about Dr. Carson's work with conjoined twins. Overall, it is worth a read.
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