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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Can you apply traditional risk analysis techniques to your personal life?

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.” John A. Shedd

“Never was anything great achieved without danger.” Niccolo Machiavelli

I love the topic of risk! The subject matter is rich and can take many different directions. Risk identification, rating, and response strategies are common topics, but you can go off on many tangents. So, let’s do that.

Last weekend I was having a delicious adult beverage with several friends, and unfortunately the topic turned to politics. My many subscribers know that I shy away from politics because I find that people are entrenched in their views and it almost always escalates, resulting in hurt feelings. And who needs that? Especially when you are trying to unwind and enjoy a beverage!

On this particular evening the topic could not be avoided. My friend is not a fan of the current administration, but I found the reasoning fascinating. One of the core reasons was the Vice Presidents statement about women, specifically an interview with The Hill from 2002. In that interview, Mike Pence said that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won't attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.

Really? I thought that was an odd reason, but OK!

But it got me thinking… Is that a reasonable risk response strategy? We should look at that.

First we have to identify the risk. What is the risk that the Vice President is trying to avoid? I would describe it like this: “My career could be ruined by an accusation of inappropriate behavior with someone.”

Fair enough! Many a career has been ruined by the mere accusation of misconduct, and as a government official he is held to a higher standard. I believe this is a reasonable risk to add to the Risk Register.

The next step is a Probability and Impact Assessment. Given the Vice Presidents reputation and history, we would rate this is a low probability event. However, if it were to occur it would have an exceptionally high impact. The result could be a tarnished reputation and even loss of office.

How do we address a low probability/high impact risk? The two preferred ways are transference and avoidance.

We all use transference in our personal life. We buy life insurance in the unlikely event we die and car insurance in the unlikely event we have a wreck. Can the Vice President transfer this risk?


The only other possible risk response is avoidance. In this instance, that means never being alone with a potential accuser or letting his guard down by drinking without his wife by his side to ensure he is not compromised.

Would I go to these extremes? No, but I’m not the Vice President.

Even though it may offend some people’s sensibilities, I view Mike Pence’s risk response strategy as a rational reaction to an identified low probability/high impact risk.


I spend a lot of time in my car, and I try to use that time to educate myself by listening to very smart people with a variety of different views. I have three primary podcasts that I listen to: Mark Levin, Scott Adams and Bill Burr. If you don’t know who they are, Mark Levine is a brilliant political commentator, Scott Adams is the author of “Dilbert” and is highly trained in observation and persuasion, and Bill Burr is a hard nosed and edgy comedian. It is particularly interesting to hear them all comment on the same topic because they come at it form a different but interesting perspective. A few days ago Scott Adams commented on a statement that Mark Levin made, and I think I’ll dissect as soon as I determine the best way to approach it.


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