Do you know what is considered taboo in North Dakota? It is taking a risk.

Now you might scoff at such a suggestion, especially since we are an agricultural state that plants seeds into the ground every spring and hopes for the best. But it’s true.

It didn’t start out that way. I know this for a fact because I’ve heard my grandfather’s stories. Nor is it necessarily a bad thing, but it can affect our long-term legacy and it will result in unachieved potential.

Of course, the media refers to it as “conservatism.” But that puts a political spin on it and this is not political. Rather, this is grass roots, it’s individual, it’s ingrown and it might even be a distant cousin to a phobia.

According to Mr. Dictionary, “risk” is when you expose yourself to the chance of injury or loss and put yourself in danger. That definition seems a little harsh to me because sometimes, when you put yourself at risk, you win $10 million, score a winning touchdown or win the Indianapolis 500.

Risk brings to mind the famous quote: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” You’ve said it, I’ve said it and a million other people have said it in 2 million different ways. It certainly seems to be true because, as you may have noticed, few people accomplish much sitting on their recliner munching on chips and flicking channels.

Some synonyms for "risk"seem to define it better: uncertainty, possibility, prospect and fortune.

In the meantime, where do you think we would be without risk? You’d be reading this column by candlelight, and certainly not online, because Thomas Edison would have never invented the light bulb.

You see, Tom went through a lot of investors and nearly gave up 100 times before he accomplished what he set out to do. In fact, he once said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

Tom didn’t just wave a wand and suddenly Las Vegas lit up the night sky. No, he risked a lot, others did, too, he was successful, they made money and that’s usually the way it works.

But sometimes it doesn’t work that way, for a variety of reasons, and those are the people we butcher and never give a second chance, just because they followed their dream and failed the first time.

My grandfather came to North Dakota as a teenager in 1908 full of vigor and ready to make his mark. After a stint as a horse wrangler, he homesteaded, married the daughter of a nearby neighbor, had six kids, didn’t make a zillion dollars but was blessed with a very good life. In other words, his gamble paid off.

Do we still have that same vigor, sense of adventure and faith?

Perhaps our abhorrence toward risk is a phobia earned over time, forged by a Great Depression and fortified by a ’50s, ’80s and a very recent oil bust?

Then again, maybe we need to shake it off and heed the words of Frank Warren, founder of PostSecret Project, who said, “Be wise enough not to be reckless, but brave enough to take great risks.”

Kevin Holten is the executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" on RFD-TV.

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