When the Black Death plague entered England in 1348, the Scots up north laughed at their good fortune. With the English crippled by disease, now was a perfect time for Scotland to stage an attack on its neighbor.
The Scots huddled together thousands of troops in preparation for battle. Which, of course, is the worst possible move during a pandemic.
“Before they could move, the savage mortality fell upon them too, scattering some in death and the rest in panic,” historian Barbara Tuchman writes in her book A Distant Mirror.
There’s a powerful urge to think risk is something that happens to other people. Other people get unlucky, other people make dumb decisions, other people get swayed by the seduction of greed and fear. But you? Me? No, never us. False confidence makes the eventual reality all the more shocking.
Some are more susceptible to risk than others, but no one is exempt from being humbled.