The World Needs Risk-Takers

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Philipp Graf von Hardenberg President & Executive Chairman of Thanyapura World Pte. Ltd. Co-Founder of United World College Thailand (UWCT) Founder of the Yaowawit School, Thailand

Readers, who have been following my columns, know, that I strongly disagree with education systems which turn children into followers – that is people who only wait for instructions from superiors, who show no initiative and then wait eagerly for praise. These kinds of systems kill all intrinsic, natural motivation that people experience without needing a pat on the back.

But what is just as important is how they kill our in-born quality of risk-taking. Children, by nature, want to climb trees, jump into deep water, experience fire. And yes, it is our responsibility to protect them from causing serious harm to themselves or others. But I think we overdo it, we are overprotective. As painful as it can be, a broken arm is not the end of the world, but acceptable risk in the necessary process of becoming a self-confident, creative and responsible human being.

If I am not allowed, not willing and not prepared to take risks, how can I explore the world, have new experiences, learn new things? How can I ever find out my own limitations, if I’m already scared to try out anything new? That’s why almost all adults don’t even know their own strength and abilities.

I’m convinced that we all need to be prepared to take more risks in our lives. And we need to allow our children to find out more about themselves. Take a look at the world around you and you’ll see where this failing approach to education it taking us. It’s obvious that we need risk-takers, not followers.