We spend our entire lives weighing up the cost of our decisions, always trying to find the most painless path forward to reach our goals. Some of us learn to move forward through this pain so we can grow and achieve our goals, while others end up shrinking their goals down and never changing anything in fear of the potential discomfort growth and change can bring.
As safe as a life without change may feel, it’s not often a life well-lived. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
What does “nothing ventured, nothing gained” mean?
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” is the phrase used to say that if you don’t try something, you can’t succeed. It’s an old English proverb that can be traced back over 500 years and has continued to be used throughout history because it rings true for so many.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained means that if you don’t take a risk, you’ll never be able to achieve anything. You’ve got to be willing to risk something to have the potential to gain. While what you’re attempting may be something monetary or physical, the thing we’re afraid of is usually the emotional pain that will come along with failure.
For example, you want to move across the country to another city, but you would have to leave friends and family behind. So, the fear keeps you where you are. Rather than taking a risk: the fear of being lonely, not finding what you want out there, and disappointing your loved ones keeps you put. Unfortunately, not taking that risk means you’ll stay exactly where you are in life and never find out what it could have been like to live elsewhere.
It’s a choice. If you want to leave this life with no regrets, you need to try new things, be willing to tread your path, and strive for financial freedom.
How can I start applying “nothing ventured, nothing gained” to my life?
Learning to take more risks in your life isn’t always easy, and you’ll likely find that your inner risk-tolerance changes throughout your life as you encounter the inevitable ups and downs of life. The key is to keep striving to make progress and not get stuck in a rut where you’re too afraid to venture out into new territory.
There are a few different areas of your life you can apply this mentality to:
- Innovation (trying new things)
- Entrepreneurship (such as your own business or side hustle – you can, of course, stick to a career, but we’ll talk about entrepreneurship in this article because it is the more “daring” of the two options)
- Financial freedom (striving to create more options for yourself and own your time)
Let’s take a closer look at how you can start to take more risks in these areas of your life.
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Innovation
Innovation often has dramatic technical or scientific associations that we feel we can’t live up to in our everyday lives. We think of world-changing discoveries by some of the world’s most intelligent people or the world’s biggest companies. However, you can think of innovation as trying new things.
The huge innovations made by technology companies are only possible because they’re willing to push what is currently possible and fail until they find a way to make their idea a reality.
You can apply the same thinking to your own life. Pause here to think of (or write down) a list of all the things you want to do in your life that you have yet to realize. Maybe you want to live in a different state, perhaps you want to write a book, or maybe you want to learn a new language – or even all three.
It can be easy to put all of these things off for “someday,” – but someday is often a day that never comes. While it’s certainly okay to think about big decisions for a few days, most people will put off starting something they want to do until they’re “ready,” another word that is often a moving goalpost.
As Hugh Laurie said, “It is a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now.”
All it takes to start taking a chance is to take that first baby step. For the examples above, you could:
- Book a trip to the area you think you’d like to live in to see it for yourself (or if you’ve already been there, to view properties), or open a savings account to start saving for the move
- Start brainstorming book ideas or if you have an idea, just sit down to start writing it – you can always edit it later!
- Book a language lesson or schedule time each day to practice alone
- Become an entrepreneur
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Entrepreneurship
Our grandparents’ generation (or likely great grandparents, if you’re Gen Z) could get a job at 16 and take steps up the ladder every few years until they reach retirement age. Most people didn’t change careers. In fact, it was even often looked down upon if you did.
Today could not be more different. Few companies can offer that kind of financial and job security, especially if you want to live well. As a result, a healthy work-life balance is harder to find and the cost of living has gone up. In short, it’s harder to live well.
I don’t say this to be a pessimist. I say this to confront you with the realities of what staying safe when it comes to your career may offer you. Staying in the same job forever, with no other income, will likely mean you learn less as inflation increases and you are not guaranteed that your job will exist in the future.
While those around you may tell you otherwise, the scary yet, in many ways, safer thing to do is to venture out on your own and create another form of income for yourself.
If you have always dreamed of being your own boss, now is the time to put the wheels in motion. So start planning and doing – don’t leave your idea as just an idea.
If you currently don’t see yourself leaving employment, it’s still a good idea to consider a side hustle. The extra income you generate due to your side hustle or in the early days of your business will contribute to our third point: financial freedom.
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Financial Freedom
Remember: money = freedom + options.
When we talk about financial freedom, it’s easy to get caught up in movements like FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) and not think of the bigger and smaller picture of financial freedom.
Financial freedom isn’t just something for people who want to retire early or live a minimalist lifestyle. It’s also the secret to having more power in your life. When you have more money, you have choices. You never have to decide out of a fear of not having enough money – that doesn’t mean you won’t, but it will give you the power and opportunity to make decisions that are right for you.
Here are a couple of examples where prioritizing financial freedom can give you more freedom and options in your life:
- You start to hate your job and dread going into work – you can quit while you look for a better position, start your own business, or make a change at work
- You don’t like the changes happening in the area where you live, and want to move. You can do so without worrying about the costs of moving or, often, getting a new mortgage
- You want to start a family or want to provide care for an elderly family member – you can provide the level of care for them that makes you feel good without damaging your day-to-day financial situation or getting into a lot of debt
- You start investing and paying yourself first
Reaching financial freedom is a long road, but you’d be surprised how quickly you start to see the benefits of saving and taking steps to maximize the money you earn and have. You’ve just got to be willing to take the steps that will get you there, such as the steps we talked about in the entrepreneurship section or learning about savings accounts, investments, and good money management.
How do I start taking more action?
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” doesn’t always have to be like ripping off the bandaid or jumping out of a plane into the unknown – it can simply be the decision to start and then do what it takes each day to take you a step closer to your goals.
Sometimes, you’ll need to do something big and scary to reach your goals – such as packing up your life to move hundreds or thousands of miles away. However, much of the time the scary step is something much easier to do, yet can feel just as intimidating, such as asking for a raise or putting yourself out there as a new business owner.
Your first step should be to make a list of the things you want to accomplish in your life and create a vision board for what you would like your life to look like in the future. This will help you keep your compass pointing in the right direction even when you’re trying new things and trying to take each step to get there.
Each week, look at those goals, consider what you have time for, and schedule a few baby steps – make sure they’re a little scary and make your stomach clench when you think about doing it. Change doesn’t come from being comfortable.
At the end of the week, schedule some time to reflect on what you’ve done that week to move closer to your goals and celebrate your wins and failures. Some weeks you’ll make significant strides. Other weeks, it will feel like you’ve taken a step back, but as long as you keep moving, you’ll create a life of fulfillment, purpose, and happiness.
Theresa is a personal finance blogger. She writes content for busy professional women to take control of their money and investments. She enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, and writing. Her work has been featured on GoBanking Rates, Your Money Geek, Savoteur, the Corporate Quitter, Thirty Eight Investing, and more.