Dr. Doug McGuff is an emergency physician in South Carolina. From this perspective, he has compiled a list of twelve tips on avoiding what he calls ‘negative Black Swan events’—an early death from things we consider unlikely (but are all-too-common to emergency physicians).

  1. Drive the biggest vehicle you can afford to drive.
  2. Never get on a 4-wheeler ATV [quad bike].
  3. Do not road cycle or jog on public roads/roadsides.
  4. Do not fly a plane or helicopter unless you are a full-time professional pilot.
  5. If you are walking down a sidewalk and are approaching a group of loud and apparently intoxicated males, cross to the other side of the street immediately. If confronted, run.
  6. If your gas grill won’t start… walk away.
  7. Never dive into a pool or body of water (except in a pool diving area marked 9 feet or deeper after you have checked it out feet-first).
  8. Never get on a ladder to clean your gutters, or on your roof to hang Christmas lights. Do not cut down trees with a chainsaw.
  9. If you are retirement age and plan on moving to a new home… think twice.
  10. If anyone tries to force you into your car or car trunk at gun point, don’t cooperate.
  11. If you are in any personal or professional relationship that exhausts you or otherwise causes you recurrent distress, then end the relationship immediately.
  12. Don’t play the lottery… you might win.

From tip number 8:

In general, any house or lawn work that you can hire for an amount equal to or less than your own hourly wage is money well spent.

I use this advice for everything. For most of us money is more abundant than time—if a job will take an hour for me to complete but the hiring of a professional to do this (in 10 minutes) will cost me less than or equal to my hourly wage, outsource.

On playing the lottery (number 12): it’s not just winning that you have to worry about—it’s the taking part, too. From Leonard Mlodinow’s The Drunkard’s Walk (an excellent read and a deserved finalist for this year’s Royal Society Prize for Science Books):

Suppose the state of California made its citizens the following offer: Of all those who pay the dollar or two to enter, most people will receive nothing, one person will receive a fortune, and one person will be put to death in a violent manner. Would anyone enrol in that game? People do, with enthusiasm. It is called the state lottery. And although the state does not advertise it in the manner in which I have described it, that is the way it works in practice. For while one lucky person wins the grand prize in each game, many millions of other contestants drive to and from their local ticket vendors to purchase their tickets, and some die in accidents along the way. Applying statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and depending on such assumptions as how far each individual drives, how many tickets he or she buys, and how many people are involved in a typical accident, you find that a reasonable estimate of those fatalities is about one death per game.