Exposure Value: 

A less than perfect way to determine if an experience is worth it.

Mum’s the word and data’s the point. Regarding Risk vs. Rewrad, we diagramed a schematic to help make sense of it all.

By Benson Wink
Illustrations & photos by Benson Wink

I was, at a time, one of those kids who stumbled upon Tim Ferriss’ How to Say No. For those unfamiliar, it’s a guide on how to enhance your life by contemplating the decisions you’re faced with on a daily basis. It encourages a brief pause-and-ponder to determine if the experience lives up to a certain standard: What's unique about it? Who am I experiencing this moment with? Am I joyous in anticipation? What's the trade off?

Before 2020, these decisions arose much more rapidly. We’d even be thrown into them headlong. Consider the ALMIGHTY question: “What are your plans this weekend?” This even boiled up anxiety in some people: “What will I do this weekend? What are my choices? What am I feeling?” And for people pleasers or those who are always open for anything, choosing to say no is not, at first glance, a concept that transpires into a sense of freedom. Rather, it transmutes into fear or even FOMO.  After putting this into practice, however, I began to see its positive effect. Of course, it’s much, much different nowadays.

The privilege of a pre-2020 world was that our experiences concerned themselves with our own internal desires of what we wanted to do. We’d maximize our free time in accordance with these experiences. Today, though, more than ever, the decision around experiences is largely considered in relation to RISK.

The privilege of a pre-2020 world was that our experiences concerned themselves with our own internal desires of what we wanted to do. We’d maximize our free time in accordance with these experiences.

As the year 2020 took hold, these social choices, these decisions we were faced with regarding our life experiences, shifted and shifted dramatically. Now, my decision making revolves heavily around the tug and pull between experience and risk which, not surprisingly, has resulted in even more choice paralysis.

This is an ever-present reality and it requires a shift in approach. I had to rethink what is entailed exactly in a valuable experience now? What does it look like with the world in lockdown? What does it look like for you… me … us? This lingered with me for a while and as the world adapted, shifted, broke, and reformed, I began to see the different possible experiences reveal themselves. So, through the lens of my own opinion on what a valuable experience may be, I jotted down a diagram to aid in my decision making. Below is the evidence of my inquiry into three major factors when faced with whether or not to partake in an experience—and at large—the value of that experience. 

The main three factors at play for me personally:  WHO WITH, HOW & EXPERIENCE AT LARGE.

By following the diagram through these stages, I was able to discover whether or not the experience would be worth my time in relation to the Experience vs. Risk reality we all live in today. Further, I was able to compare the options presented at the forefront with other potential experiences that may arise. That is, If I don’t create the alternatives myself.

While this diagram is not foolproof—and rather fucking ridiculous!—as I listed ALL the apparently possible combinations out I began to see which experiences stood out to me as highly valuable. I’ll spare you and not share the large list of all the possible combinations, but after much consideration, I boiled down my top experiences and the experiences, if asked to participate, I would likely respond NO.

This is a personal account of me attempting to help my decision anxiety in an already anxiety-inducing world. I encourage anyone who’s reading this to create their own diagram or use mine and see what they discover! If anything, it is a deep dive into what you truly enjoy.

For the purposes of this article, I took the time to retroactively rate some of my experiences in relation to the diagram above. Below, you’ll find images and their corresponding rating. Keep in mind it’s highly personal and subjective.

Caption: Experience: Long Drive through Oregon’s largest wind farm. Sunset. Summertime. With two close friends. Music. Rated 9/10 Experience in regards to the experience vs. risk model. 

Caption: Experience: Pizza as the creative medium. A creative experimentation of taste and resources. Home in NYC. Saturday midday. With my partner. 9/10 experience in regards to experience vs. risk model.

Caption: Experience: Field tested New Balances. Walked from Fort Greene to David Zwirner Gallery. Outside/Inside. Six Miles. Not enough water. Across the Brooklyn Bridge. One friend. 6.5/10 experience in regards to the experience vs. risk model.

Caption: Experience: Working from home in Oregon. 6 am start time. 4 walls, a bed, a desk, and a door to the outside world. 5.5/10 experience in regards to the experience vs. risk model. Not because of the risk, but the experience alone was grueling and lonely.

Caption: After living life with this idea in mind, I began to see other people’s experiences with the same experience vs. risk lens. Here someone's home, not just guarded by one fence, but two. It sits quietly in a valley just outside of Bozeman, Montana. And the view? See photo 2. I can only imagine quarantining in this space. And only because I’m romanticising the experience a tad. I give it a 10/10 experience rating. No risk hence the double fence of protection and beautiful scenery just outside.︎