Monday, March 18, 2024

Safety Third

I heard the line “safety third” on a podcast a few years ago, and I wholeheartedly embraced it. This might be a little pedantic, but I think it’s worth the distinction for my mindset.

Saying you believe in “safety first” is false. Nobody actually practices it. If a sea captain said they believed in safety first, they’d never leave the dock because that’s the safest thing to do - but if they did that, they wouldn’t be a real ship captain.

The first priority is achieving the goal.

To be clear, it’s not the only priority - it just comes first. If a goal didn’t exist, there would be no action and, therefore, no reason to declare any priorities.

And if you don’t achieve a goal for safety reasons, it feels like a tie. You’ll take it, but it wasn’t really the desired outcome.

Why Not Safety Second?

I prefer innovation as my second priority. How might I achieve the goal better? Is there a new innovative way to achieve it faster, cheaper, better, safer, etc.? It’s a priority of creativity and discernment that’s important to take before jumping into action.

This is how you get better.

What are the implications of a safety third mantra?

First, it promotes contextual awareness and assessing risk based on the situation. You don’t default to the least risky option. Instead, you evaluate your skills and the goal to make an informed decision.

Some questions that I ask to help me evaluate the risk include:

  • What are the worst things that could happen?
  • Could I get back here?
  • Is this favorable on a risk-adjusted basis?
  • Can I live with the worst-case scenario?

As someone who tends to be unreasonably optimistic, I sometimes have to enlist Jessi to help thoroughly evaluate the downside possibilities of doing something.

In this way, safety becomes more meaningful and not a meaningless platitude. Plus, if I know someone else has a safety third mindset, and they bring up a safety issue, I’m less dismissive.

Finally, you have to admit that some unwanted things will happen. But that’s OK! When they occur, focus on the good. What did you learn? What new opportunities does this create? There is ALWAYS something good that comes from bad things.

May you achieve your goals in an innovative way and be safe along your journey.

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