Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk by Dr. Ben Carson with Gregg Lewis – A Review

(Photo from barnesandnoble.com)

Ever since I read Gifted Hands a few years ago, I’ve been a Ben Carson fan. Lately, I’ve been reading every book of his that I can get my hands on. I thought I had exhausted the library’s supply of his books until I spotted Take the Risk on one of the bookshelves as I was walking by.

Oh, happy day!

For those who may not know, Ben Carson grew up in the slums of Detroit, Michigan. He was raised by a single mother who had to work at least two jobs at a time to support Ben and his older brother, Curtis. But Mrs. Carson wanted more for her sons, and she knew how they could escape poverty. While the other kids in Detroit were watching television or playing basketball, Sonya Carson made Ben and Curtis read two books a week and write a book report on each one; she also limited their amount of TV time to three shows a week. Needless to say, Ben Carson developed an appreciation for learning through this situation, and he applied this dedication to every aspect of his life. Because of his commitment and faith in God, he received a 90% scholarship to Yale University, attended medical school, and began working in neurosurgery. As a talented surgeon, Carson was appointed the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at the age of thirty-three. He pioneered such surgeries as the hemispherectomy and the separation of craniopagus twins (twins attached at the skull). Currently, Dr. Carson works with his foundation – the Carson Scholars Fund – to help reward academically gifted and selfless students with scholarship money. Recently, he tossed his hat into the ring of the US Presidential race, despite his lack of political experience. (Don’t let that fool you, though. Dr. Carson exhibits unparalleled rationality and commitment to American values. For more information, check out his books One Nation and America the Beautiful.)

When I decided to read this book, I didn’t really think I would benefit from its message as much as I have from Dr. Carson’s other books. After all, I thought, I know how to handle risk. I’m a cautious person, and I don’t have trouble making decisions.

My attitude, however, was quickly changed as I became emerged in Dr. Carson’s message. I had been viewing “risk” as the factor that accompanies big, scary decisions, like moving across the country to take a new job or investing your life’s savings in a budding corporation. But, through Dr. Carson’s straightforward approach, I realized that I am constantly surrounded by risk. For example, as I type this blog post, I’m taking the risk of using my computer, and I’m trusting that I won’t get electrocuted or hacked. As Carson points out, some risks are good. A life without risks is dull and empty. But, what about the really big risks we have to take? How do we make wise decisions when we’re facing a situation that’s about “as clear as mud”?

Take the Risk outlines Dr. Carson’s approach to everyday encounters with decision making. Throughout the book, Carson details his four-step plan to analyzing the risk a situation entails and thus making wise, informed decisions. He works to clearly illustrate his system by providing numerous examples from his personal and professional life in which his method of risk analysis has helped him to make solid, knowledgeable choices.

After addressing how to apply risk analysis, Dr. Carson moves on to discuss where readers should use this strategy. He applies his technique to current hot topic issues, such as expressing one’s faith, defending Constitutional rights, and raising confident children. By showing and not telling the reader how to effectively weigh risk, Carson crafts a message typical of his character – one that is completely honest, yet gentle.

Take the Risk is classified as an adult “personal growth” book, but its message and difficulty level is not beyond the scope of older children and teenagers. As a Christian, Dr. Carson approaches risk in all facets of life from a conservative and Biblical perspective, making this a “clean” but inspiring read.

Dr. Carson’s approach to risk is so simple that a child could use it. Yet, its simplicity is what makes it so effective. By taking a couple of minutes to stop and ask himself a few questions, Dr. Carson has avoided some potentially extreme catastrophes. His method will undoubtedly prove helpful to readers of all ages.

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