At some point in your life, you likely heard the phrase: Without risk, there is no reward, (or some iteration of it). Chances are you barely paid it any mind, but some of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs of all time are living proof that if you want to achieve greatness, you have to be willing to lose it all.
When it comes to the greatest American inventors, many discussions start and end with Henry Ford. His surname has become synonymous with the automobile industry (which he essentially created), but it wasn’t always that way.
In fact, Ford was always an imaginative inventor with some new idea constantly consuming his brain. His earlier businesses all failed, leaving him broke five times before he finally founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903. Makes sense, then, that he’s credited with saying:
“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.”
Even when Ford Motor Company launched, Ford still took chances to make his dream of affordable automobiles a reality. He slashed prices (risking taking major losses) and increased minimum wages to bring his Model T cars to the masses.
It’s hard to remember a time when Bill Gates wasn’t one of (if not the) richest men on the planet. But there was a time Gates was nothing more than a college dropout with a big idea: to make the personal computer a mainstay in every house and office.
Gates had to drop out of college to invest his time toward Microsoft. At the time, he was going up against another risk-it-all innovator, Steve Jobs, which helped Gates develop a thick skin and a can-do attitude.
Today, Gates could buy hundreds of colleges and universities if he wanted to. Instead, he’s shifted his focus to philanthropic causes.
While many might not consider Stephen King to be an “innovator”, it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t have an inventive imagination. With a mind like that, King probably was born with a best-selling novel dripping from his fingertips, right?
Wrong. In fact, his breakthrough novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times, enough to make King second-guess his dream of becoming a novelist.
With support from his wife, and a few revisions, he swallowed his pride and submitted his manuscript again. In its first year of publication, Carrie made $1 million in sales and launched the career of one of the most successful writers of all time.
Sometimes it’s about discovering your talents and creating a niche that honors those talents. That’s exactly what Oprah Winfrey did.
Winfrey began her career as a television anchor in Baltimore, where she was canned for being too emotionally involved.
But she couldn’t help it; it was in her nature to care deeply about the stories she told. Rather than change herself or seek a new career, Winfrey decided to carve her own way into the television business. Now, emotionally involved is her trademark.
Each of these great minds – and many more like them – don’t just take one risk and move on. Even after they taste sweet success, they continue to take risks. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is a great example.
Bezos started his company from a garage in 1995, back when connecting to the Internet meant making sure no one at your house picked up the landline.
That, on its own, was a huge risk. But now, with a successful business under his belt, Bezos has gone off and risked it all again: he recently bought The Washington Post, despite knowing that traditional newspapers are going the way of the Dodo bird.
His goal is to turn a struggling operation into a revenue generating business. Can he do it?
Innovators and entrepreneurs are willing to risk it all because they’re passionate about their ideas. They believe that they have something that could possibly alter the way we all live.
Each of the great minds listed above have shaped our lives today; but we might not have ever heard their names if they weren’t willing to risk it all – in the face of adversity – to follow their dreams.
Are you willing to risk it all for your passion? Could you be the next Gates, Bezos or Ford? Taking a leap of faith is your first step.