Friday, February 7, 2014

Is the Risk Worth It? Assessing Values and Hidden Costs

     In class, we brought up an interesting question of whether the risk of climbing Annapurna was worth it in the end. Then we compared this risk with other risks that we take as average citizens. The book mentions that it is a tale of a “terrible adventure” because even though they successfully summited Annapurna, they did it at a significant cost. After losing several fingers to frostbite and potentially not being able to mountain climb ever again, one may think that it may have not been worth it and the risks should have been calculated more carefully. For the “arm-chair” adventurer this risk-taking can be comparable to decisions we make on occasion. For example, applying to graduate school can be compared to summiting a mountain. Successfully reaching the summit can be comparable to gaining acceptance to a graduate school. The grades, test scores, recommendations, and work experience when submitting an application are equivalent to the preparations required to climb a mountain that include map preparation, assembling of a team, food preparation, etc. The risk can be justified by the motivations and consequences undertaken when performing such a feat. The motivations are caused by what a person values the most. Herzog’s team placed a high value on the national recognition and the glory that would come after successfully summiting Annapurna. For Herzog, another high value was placed on the self-fulfillment achieved once on the summit of a mountain. We can see that different values can lead to different motivations that can fuel the ascent of a mountain. When applying to graduate school, if one solely values gaining acceptance then a rejection can be heart-breaking, however, if one can find importance in the application process or “the journey” then a rejection can simply mean an opportunity to learn and make another attempt the next year. By viewing the process as the “journey,” then one can be motivated by different values and not just the end product. 
     When considering the consequences/risks, it is important to consider that it is extremely difficult to take into account all the risks until you are actually performing the act. Herzog’s team prepared a decent amount when getting together a qualified team, having a medical professional, and having enough food but no one can ever know what is in store until the expedition has begun. In life, anything can happen and any amount of preparation that is done can still not be enough. With this in mind, the risk might just be worth it. When applying to a graduate program, especially a highly competitive school, one never knows if the admissions committee will accept an application until one has applied. Therefore, why not make the leap of faith? By taking into account the different values someone might hold and comparing them to the risks/costs involved, one can assess whether or not a particular risky feat is worth doing. In this case, climbing the mountain and applying to graduate are both risks that people can take and depending on these factors a justification can be found.

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