Manvotional: To Risk

by Brett & Kate McKay on May 1, 2010 · 29 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals

To Risk

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out is to risk involvement,
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas and
dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because
the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing,
has nothing, is nothing.

– William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)

Hat tip to Scott Brenner for this Manvotional selection.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dick May 1, 2010 at 10:52 pm

awesome post. thanks!

2 Sean May 2, 2010 at 12:24 am


3 Autobraz May 2, 2010 at 5:31 am

Perfect timing for some things going through my mind now. Thanks.

4 David Black May 2, 2010 at 8:24 am


5 Ross Simmonds May 2, 2010 at 8:58 am

For those who care – Here is the rest of the poem,

He may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.
Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.

The pessimist complains about the wind;
The optimist expects it to change;
And the realist adjusts the sails.

6 Nathan May 2, 2010 at 12:39 pm

This is definitely a moving poem…it’s perfect for helping me get into the right mindset for making some big decisions I’ve had to make lately. Definitely applies to my life.

7 sie May 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Thanks for posting the rest of the poem !
This poem is an inspiration to me and will help get my priorities in order. Where would we be without risks? I have been recovering from a motorcycle accident, while concluding my yearly rally circuit, from the year 2006 [27 k/miles] and this poem kick started my priority sorter into motion. I have been practicing ‘ no pain no gain ‘ in my recovery and limiting the prescribed pain meds to prevent becoming ‘becalmed’ as a sailboat dead in the water…..
I now will take what ever risks I must to to reach what ever potential I
find myself left with…

I leave pondering, “”experience is what you get, when you did not get what you wanted”" and “”fall down seven times, get up eight”"

again Ross, thanks for completing the poem for us ! ! !



8 Alejandro May 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Great post! This is perfect for how I’m beginning to live my life right now. Thanks!

9 tayo May 2, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Thats an incredible post. I am going to make it my favorite, after robert frost’s “Mending walls”. Thanks man.

10 The Gentleman and Scholar May 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm

I love this poem. I will have to post it to my blog at some point.

I also saw this related article online the other day (it’s about being uncomfortable– i.e. taking risks– and how it relates to living well):

11 Core May 2, 2010 at 8:32 pm

@#5 Ross Simmonds

Thanks for posting that.

12 Josh B. May 3, 2010 at 4:53 am

I was quite surprised to come upon this. My old drama teacher had this poem painted up on the wall outside the drama room over a rendering of a scroll. We had to memorize it and repeat it in front of the class while the teacher tried to distract us by making faces, throwing things at us, yelling, really anything to throw us off our rhythm. Quite disconcerting to a social awkward 9th grade child. It’s stuck with me since then though.
I wouldn’t say it has necessarily affected my life in any direct way; but, then again, I’ve held on to the memory and poem for as long as I have, so there must be some reason for it all.

13 Richard | May 3, 2010 at 9:49 am

Really beautiful. We are always risking something, commonly known as an opportunity cost. We just have to know that our fears are all ultimately illusions and face them.

14 Nick May 3, 2010 at 11:38 am

Truly worth reflecting upon. It is inspiring to find writings about risk that are not referring to stocks or environmental analysis (my job).
Sitting at home watching tv just doesn’t quite cut it if you want the above things.
Thanks for the reminder that if we are to have a fulfilling life, we must try for it.

15 Andrew M. May 4, 2010 at 3:25 am

I completely agree that this is a touching poem. However I’ve done a little digging and I cannot seem to find out if William Arthur Ward is actually the author of this poem. Doing a search on Google Books, 1981 is the earliest I saw where this poem had an attributed author.

*In Volume 11 of the publication Char-Koosta, this poem was published with a Geraldine Linsebigler as the author.
*A Google Search for: “To Laugh is to Risk Appearing” +”William Arthur Ward” yields 1,170 results
*A Google Search for: “To Laugh is to Risk Appearing” +”Leo Buscaglia” yields 937 results.
*A little further digging into a discussion on Leo Buscaglia’s claim to this quote on WikiQuotes – – has this quote being penned by a Janet Rand which was a pseudonym for Louise L Wilson (who? I don’t know).
*A Google Search for: “To Laugh is to Risk Appearing” +”Janet Rand” yields 1,760 results.
*The same search + Ralph Waldo Emerson comes up with nearly 550 results.

I suppose it would be safest to follow in the steps of Jack McKay Zimmerman, who in his 1986 book, “Hospice: complete care for the terminally ill” by accrediting no one but “Unknown Author” –

Unless someone else can prove otherwise :)

Now as I understand it, “The pessimist complains about the wind; The optimist expects it to change; And the realist adjusts the sails.” is certainly a William Arthur Ward maxim, but only that much is for sure. Chances are it is simply tacked onto the end of the “To Risk” poem because it seems like it should fit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the entire poem is meant to fit together or is even a Ward poem.

Regardless of the author, it is a meaningful poem which can be kept dear to the heart and to be lived by. Thanks for reading through my confusion ;)

16 Anonymous May 4, 2010 at 5:49 am

Great now I feel worse about myself because this is me, risking nothing, doing nothing.

17 Molly May 5, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Oh my. I’m a girl, but I love your site, and I just looked up this poem to use for my own blog. Thanks for a great poem–I just came out of my first real romantic relationship (he ended it), and this really helped me to remember that in the long run it was worth the risk, even if things didn’t work out. :) :/ :)

18 ganesha May 6, 2010 at 7:15 pm

i liked

19 Men's t-shirts May 7, 2010 at 3:10 pm

What a beautiful poem.

20 Lucas May 9, 2010 at 12:31 am

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”

Wayne Gretzky

21 Paddy May 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Guys this is an awsome site and helpfull on aq daily basis, really disappointed you didnt give us the full peom! thanks Ross for that

22 PLH May 12, 2010 at 10:35 pm

This is exactly one of the reasons why I’m starting to love this site……

risk is life life is risk …??? haha..

This poem made my day…….

23 PLH May 12, 2010 at 11:44 pm

“SI SE PUEDE”………….. “yES WE CAN”

The rest of the animals in the world fight to live every single day……. Why would we be any different???

My character/vocabulary has improved nicely since I started coming to this site….
My 9th grade spanish teacher once whispered in my ear
“girls like guys with big Dic tionaries” …. true story :)

I picked up reading books at 25…. :( I guess better late than never…. :)

“Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.”
–Benjamin Franklin

“A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”
-Balthasar Gracian

“Learning makes the wise wiser and the fool more foolish.”
–John Ray

24 aymanasu May 16, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Thanks for this post, it’s useful for me
Grow & Improve
My Website

25 My Lucha Libre Life May 17, 2010 at 3:59 am

Wow, thanks guys this poem really made my day.

For the past months I have been fearing taking a risk.

I have always wanted to be a luchador, a Mexican masked wrestler, but I never had the guts to do it. But recently, I decided to be manly and take a year off from college and follow my dream.

I started a blog, and if you read along, you can tell I’m scared shit-less to do this, but this poem really helped.

Once again, thanks!

26 Andrew Scwhartzmeyer May 23, 2010 at 3:04 am

I stumbled upon this excellent post while going through my feeds, and I must thank you for the inspiration to just live life. I found the rest of the poem, and another quote from William Arthur Ward, and posted on my (new) blog at

@ Mr. Lucha Libre, you have an interesting, eccentric journey ahead of for sure. I shall be following you.

27 Jonny May 25, 2010 at 8:00 pm

You have to be completely out of your mind to live like that, risking everything to get somewhere.

But then that makes perfect sense for the caged mind that suffers hopeless insanity living from weekend to weekend to weekend to weekend to weekend to…

28 Bruce September 30, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Attribution: my researches also pointed to the most likely author being Janet Rand. However, attribution is a matter of acknowledgement and courtesy, and the quality of the subject matter speaks for itself.

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