I suppose at the old age of 31, I’m more risk-averse than ever before.

I remember first thinking, “Damn. I’m old,” years ago, upon first seeing the bike ramps on 9th Street in Austin and thinking, “That’s really dangerous.”  My younger self wouldn’t have thought so. Same with the new skate park. Now, I see myself being taken away on a litter rather than enjoying myself for hours on end.

My risk-aversion has spread into my professional life, as well. Twice in recent weeks, I have volunteered information to campaigns and organizations (by which I was not being paid) pointing out possible ethical (and legal) violations, their consequences, how to fix the problems while still meeting their goals and, in one case, taking proactive steps to prevent any association with possible violations.

Now, these violations may never be discovered by an opponent, but I can see the possibility and would prefer to hedge my bets. (And hope they will, as well.)

I’m not averse to implementing innovative changes. Even though the small solutions to the above issues may only take a minute amount of creativity, it requires it nonetheless. In these instances, it was a zero-sum game. Be innovative or break a law and possibly permanently tarnish your reputation.

Robert Frost once said that writing free verse poetry is “like playing tennis without a net.” There are no constraints, thus, it requires less creativity and innovation. Of course, everything has its constraints — design, politics, space travel, neuroscience — everything.

The beauty of knowing there are constraints — legal, ethical, financial, scientific, et cetera — is that it allows us to be even more creative. Working within bounds, and knowing what those boundaries are, allows one to push them. This takes risk, and that I support. But flaunting ethics and law is too far out of bounds, and I won’t do that (see: Meatloaf).

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