If there’s a Methow Valley guy who understands risk, it’s Winthrop resident Josh Cole. First of all, he has two active boys (aged 4 and 6 3/4) who like to climb things. He has also spent his career managing risk in the backcountry, from his years as an instructor and program director for Outward Bound, to his time as an owner/guide for North Cascades Mountain Guides (NCMG), to his hours as a volunteer EMT with Aero Methow Rescue Service, to his work as a risk management consultant for various organizations.
Now Josh has contributed to a book about risk management. Published by Sagamore-Venture and edited by Josh’s friend, former Outward Bound colleague and fellow consultant Steve Smith, “Beneficial Risks: the Evolution of Risk Management for Outdoor and Experiential Education Programs” is hot off the presses — so hot, in fact, that Josh hasn’t actually held a copy of it in his hands yet.
The book addresses risk from the perspective that risk can have benefits, and that those who learn to finesse risk competence, versus risk avoidance, will not only end up with safer backcountry experiences, they’ll also set themselves up for more rewarding ones.
“Often there’s a focus, especially with youth, to avoid risks completely,” Josh says. “We take a ‘there can be no mistakes’ approach. But that’s an unrealistic way to think about risk, and there’s a negative impact to trying to eliminate risk completely. Risk has potential reward. We need to learn to balance that benefit with how much risk is appropriate given your circumstances.”
Josh points to schools reopening for full-time, in-person learning for students as an example of calculated risk. “Given the protocol the schools are following, the benefits of having kids back in school outweigh the risks,” he says.
“Beneficial Risks” uses storytelling, scenarios and actionable bullet points built on a foundation of research, theory, and first-hand experience to present models for “embracing risk as a tool for personal growth.”
Josh contributed some vignettes, addressing dealing with uncertainty, making mistakes and learning from near-misses. He has valued being a part of organizations like Outward Bound and NCMG, which gain institutional and individual knowledge from past experiences and continually improve risk management over time.
Although the contributors to the book are either administrators of outdoor programs or people teaching outdoor education classes, the principles and concepts covered in the book are broadly applicable, Josh says, and could easily translate to other situations and environments involving risk.
For more information about “Beneficial Risks,” visit www.outdoorrisk.com/beneficial-risks.