Why You Should Take More Risks While You're Young
One of my ultimate philosophies in life is to be willing to bottom out while you’re young. Of course, young is a relative term. Someone that is 50 years old is certainly younger than someone that is 70 but by young I’m referring specifically to those in the age range of mid-teens to early 30s. In the grand sense of a human lifespan, this is what I’d consider the youthful age range.
In order for my philosophy to make sense, let me first start by explaining what I mean by “bottom out”. To Bottom Out is essentially to experience a scenario in which all material possessions are lost. It’s ending up at $0 or even in the negatives. Imagine you’re in a situation in which you’ve drained all of your cash and savings and you can barely afford to eat. Your car has been destroyed or repossessed and you’ve been evicted from your apartment or foreclosed on. You are at a very low point relative to everyone else in society. To have such an experience is, in my opinion, a game that should be played during one’s youth.
My perspective is that if you have high ambitions and goals that you wish to accomplish throughout your life, playing this game is most effective for the long run. It’s preparation for a likely conclusion. The likely conclusion is failure. All humans will inevitably fail. I believe that the level of failure one faces is in direct correlation to the goal or reward they wish to acquire. Arguably, while on the surface, this play style seems to bear the most risk, I’d suggest that playing this game while you’re younger with absolute intent is a far less risky move than to seek safety. In youth, it’s easier to recover from hardships (assuming you haven’t burdened yourself with too many responsibilities).
A 21 year old with no girlfriend, kids, or long term career can effectively put all of his chips on the table, go all in, lose miserably, but recover relatively easily in a year or so to try his luck at the table again.
The older you get and the more responsibilities you take on, the more difficult it is to play in this manner. A 45-year-old with a wife, two young children, a mortgage, a stable career that he’s 10 years into, and loads of debt can’t afford to take such as extreme risk. To do so could risk his marriage, his kid’s respect and their personal wellbeing, his house, his future, and drastically alter the course of his life in a negative manner. This doesn’t factor in the social rejection and pressure such a failure would elicit.
Now, one might ask, well why play this game in the first place? Why not just take things easily? As I mentioned, this game is reserved for those with big ambitions. If you have standard goals or no goals, you’re much better off not taking any risks since you’re okay with accumulating little to no rewards.
I think the only way to reach a big ambition, aside from sheer luck (which I don’t necessarily believe in the way most people do) is to make a big bet. Let’s use a gambling metaphor to better articulate this concept. Imagine you want to make $1 million dollars playing a coin flip game. Whatever you bet can be doubled each time you win. Your odds of winning each round is 50/50. If your goal is $1 million, you have to assess the amount gambled as well as the time it takes to reach the destination.
Sure, you could play it safe and simply bet $1 each round. But in order to reach your goal, you’d have to consecutively win your bets exceedingly more than you lose. Realistically speaking, you’d never make it to $1 million using that strategy. You’re much better off betting high every chance you get. If you win, the distance traveled towards your destination is exponentially higher than if you were to play it safe. Again, this strategy is reserved for those that want a goal bad enough. It’s an assessment of where you currently are vs. where you want to be.
No matter what, if your goal is $1 million you will have to make a big bet at some point. To do so otherwise, would invalidate the purpose of playing because small bets will never get you to your destination. You’d expire before coming close. In effect, to play it safe and wager small bets is to trick your brain into believing you’re progressing while never objectively going anywhere. Someone that decides to scrutinize the example might suggest that in this type of game, while it is true that the player that engages in the riskier strategy could get to $1 million faster, faces a high probability that he may never get there either because he’s fluctuating too frequently between high wins and high losses. Also, since he’s not in control of the probability, he’s at the mercy of pure random chance. I absolutely agree with this. This example is simply to demonstrate the distance one could potentially travel with big risks.
In real life, I think the variables of time and experience are drastically underappreciated yet play a much more significant impact when examining this playstyle. In my previous example of gambling with the coin game, experience is not a variable due to the game effectively being random chance.
You either win or lose and there’s no true predictability of influence. It doesn’t matter how frequently you win or lose, your odds never increase nor do they decrease. However, in real life, making a big bet is far more advantageous because even if one were to lose everything, they still have experience to aid them the next time they make a big bet. The experience will help them financially and mentally cope with the situation. Only in youth will this experience be a major aid. I’m not suggesting that an older person cannot play the game with this strategy. However, I am suggesting that under ordinary circumstances, an older person playing this game has a one-time opportunity.
The reason is because the expectations of yourself and the expectations society has for you changes overtime in a way that can be a hindrance for risky moves. Assuming you want anything remotely close to what the standard human desires (relationships, kids, stability, etc.) your ability to acquire that life decreases as time goes on. For example, let’s compare a single male at 25 to a single male at 50. It’s not so strange to see a single guy in his twenties. There’s very little expectation of someone this age being married or having kids. However, as a 50-year-old, there tends to be an expectation of a seasoned man in a career that has at least one child and a spouse.
Society’s views shape our views so the risk of not being established at an older age is greater than it is a younger age. The same applies to money. Imagine you meet a 25-year-old that has no money in his bank account. It’s easy for society and the individual to look past that and say, “well, I’m a young man that just graduated college or I’m spending my money on dates or having fun with friends”. It’s extremely accepted. However, to witness a 50-year-old with the same lack of resources is typically looked down upon by society and can ultimately cause an individual in that situation to develop low self-esteem.
The same logic applies to one’s health. A 25-year-old that drinks heavily or eats indiscriminately can readily metabolize terrible foods and stay moderately healthy. As we age, our biology becomes less forgiving. Terrible foods cause us to gain weight more easily. They make us sluggish and foggy with regards to our cognition. Maximum risk is best left to the youth.
I tend to encourage many people to go all out while they’re younger. The reward for doing so is at its highest at this point while the overall risk is at its lowest. In my own life I practice this adamantly. I’ve chosen to distance myself from long term sexual relationships and children in pursuit of my goals. I also don’t attach myself heavily to a major career that has a high probability of locking me in with financial incentives or a great salary.
I’m willing to make large gambles and bets and bottom out because it’s relatively easy to recover before my thirties. If I had a wife and kids, recovery from a massive blow would be overwhelmingly difficult. Plus, every time I fail, I gain insights into how I can improve and perform better next time. If I wait too long, while I may still collect insights, I close off the opportunity of a next time. My advice: take the biggest risks while you’re youngest. If you fall, you’re not falling from very high. If you succeed, you’re able to make a massive leap in a relatively short period of time. By doing so, you’re able to enjoy your rewards for a far longer period of time. The opposite is true for every year that passes.
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