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Abe Lincoln

Reader responses provide a glimpse into the minds of folks who like a gamble – and Abe Lincoln

An exploration into the minds of the more than 200 people who took our survey on risk.

Respondents were mostly older than 35 (87%), with more than half identifying as an entrepreneur or wantrapreneur and nearly a third working in education. Plus, more than 90% hold a bachelor’s degree – and more than half hold a master’s degree or higher.


When starting a new undertaking, 6 out of 10 respondents said they would first weigh the pros and cons of a risk. Almost 1 in 4 said they need the guidance of someone they respect, trust, or view as an authority figure.

When anticipating events with unknown outcomes, more than 60% of respondents say while it makes them cautious, they believe they will handle any turn of events.

When prompted with the choice to collect $3,000 in guaranteed cash, or gamble for a lesser chance to win a larger payout, only 2 out of 10 participants would take the guaranteed money.

Men were 3x more likely than women to gamble for the largest payout, agreeing to face the lowest chances of winning.

  • 30% of men would take the lowest odds for highest payout.
  • 10% of women would take the lowest odds for highest payout.


Entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs were twice as likely to accept the guaranteed cash versus the K-12 teachers (only 1 in 9 would take the guaranteed cash).


1 in 4 survey respondents expressed a feeling of anxiety or worry when anticipating events with an unknown outcome. Despite the nervous emotions, 8 out of 10 respondents say they hope for the best, whereas 2 out of 10 expect the worst.


2 out of 10 survey respondents say the anticipation of events with an unknown outcome brings them excitement or a feeling of energy.

We asked respondents to identify famous or historic risk takers.


Abraham Lincoln was the single-most submitted name.

U.S. presidents or world leaders were frequently submitted, accounting for nearly a quarter of submitted names.


Another common category of submissions were astronauts, world explorers, and aviators…


… as well as submissions for civil rights activists…


… and business leaders or entrepreneurs.

The Risk Optimistic logo

“The Risk Optimistic” is about belief: the assurance that taking a chance is worthwhile, even without knowing the outcome. It’s also the belief that if we value and support risk – in policy, community, and culture – we benefit from each person’s ability to make choices to achieve success. With this initiative, Kauffman kicks off 2020 with insights, stories, and opportunities to explore what it means to take risks, and own your own success, however you choose to define it.

All gifs courtesy of


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