A few years ago after giving a talk at Cornell University, I asked a group of students what they were doing to change the world. The answer was a collective shrug by almost everyone present, and when one girl remarked that she just felt overwhelmed, everyone pretty much agreed. This aimlessness really got to me, and I decided to do something about it. What I did was to co-author a book called “Do Something: Leave your Mark on the World,” which was published in 2008.
Today as I reflect on the close of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, I feel like I really should have named the book “Start Something Risky.” Right now, in fact, I am so excited about the prospect of new adventures and starting something myself that I can barely contain my excitement. I am approaching the new year not only with an entirely new mental framework, but with expertise and money to give to people who have started something risky and made it work, but need help and additional capital to keep it going or expand it.
So my advice is: start the new year off by starting something new and different — perhaps some project that you’ve always had in the back of your mind. It doesn’t have to involve investing a lot of money, but rather whatever time and effort you can spare – your “sweat equity,” so to speak — to achieve something meaningful, original and potentially lucrative. Make a phone call, send an e-mail announcing your intentions, declare to a friend you are about to launch an important new venture. Then do it. And here is the biggest secret of all about starting something: the higher the likelihood it won’t succeed, the better in other words the higher the risk the better. So don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Because guess what? — there really are no failures. There are just new lessons to be learned and new mental frameworks to be gained. Just start something and persevere, see it through and you will learn things you never could have learned by playing it safe, whether it succeeds or not.
When I reflect on my own failures, I laugh at how naive I was that I thought I could actually change an entire industry, and then a smile comes to my face because I know there is nothing better than the naivete that enables us to start something. In fact that is the magic of initiating a high-risk venture – the fact that you may well be the road to becoming a billionaire, and all it might take is just a few steps to get there. As unlikely as that might seem, you have to remember that just about every hugely successful venture seemed like a dubious proposition when it was first undertaken. So start something new – maybe something you’ve always wanted to do, but were held back from doing by fear of failure. Start now, and by 12/12/12 you could conceivably be on the road to becoming a billionaire — or at worst, a lot smarter.