Jun 122022

I have a habit of looking up people on Wikipedia while watching TV and reading their story. This includes actors, directors, producers, guests, politicians — nearly anyone who pops up on screen and strikes a chord. Over the years, I’ve found a trend that repeats all too often: little to lose.

People with little or nothing to lose seem more willing to take risks and embrace opportunities with all-in 100% conviction and commitment than those with a lot of options and the perception that they have much to lose. It’s a bit surprising how often the son or daughter from a family with modest means, or someone from a broken home or orphanage, rises to the very pinnacle of U.S. society and fame.

I have found that home run careers usually come from humble beginnings, not from those born into great wealth or the upper middle class. Sure, there are exceptions but, for every hundred people I look up in my decidedly unscientific wikipedia survey, 8 out of 10 came from the “little to lose” mindset.

People complain about having access and being disadvantaged. Yes, at one level, having a plethora of options seems to give you paved roads for success, but I think that success is often the top 10% variety, not the top 1/10th of 1% home run variety. Home runs come from taking greater risks and sticking to your plan as though you have no option but to success or fail in the current mission.

Legend tells us that Cortez burned his ships to ensure that his men would conquer the Aztec empire, or die trying. Hernán took away the option of retreat. Embracing risk, committing fully to the mission, adapting and overcoming, believing in your heart that you will ultimately prevail against all odds, trying everything you can until you succeed are key parts of the formula for success that few actually follow. Yet this formula is available to all of us, even those born with a silver spoon in their mouth. It requires courage, hope, and a burn my own ships mentality.

Take on the right risks like you have nothing to lose and you might just hit that home run.

The person who has nothing to lose has total freedom: Freedom to succeed, freedom to be unpredictable, freedom to be dangerous, freedom to change destiny.


I.M. Optimisman

PS. One more most helpful nugget of advice is found here.

PS. This formula and reality is why the lion’s share of home run businesses are started by 20 somethings and not 50 somethings. A 20 year old normally has far less to lose and is therefore willing to risk much more than a 50 year old who has made countless sacrifices for 30 years. In truth, the 50 year old is likely wiser and better equipped to succeed. But risk and commitment are two killer aspects that are unlikely to be overcome. The 50 year old simply requires more venture money, a decent salary, and greater safety nets to dare greatly. Lastly, it is easier to fully believe and to be all-in before the setbacks of three decades leave numerous scars on a psyche.