“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
If you want to live your life to the fullest, there is one thing you need to do: make bets. No, I’m not talking about gambling. Instead, I’m talking about taking calculated risks that could propel you forward in life.
You can’t expect to have forward leaps in your life if you just do what you’ve always been doing. If you want to get different results, you must do things differently. You must move out of your comfort zone and take risks. It’s a “bet” because you could fail, but it’s a bet worth taking because that’s how you progress.
Many great people in history have made such a bet. In fact, I learned about this “making bets” concept from watching a 2007 interview with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. In the interview, Gates repeatedly used the term “our bet,” “we bet,” and the like to explain the history of Microsoft.
For instance, Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft based on a bet that the microcomputer would become huge. They also bet that software would become a key part of the upcoming microcomputer revolution. That’s why they named their new company Microsoft. As we all know, their bet paid off big time.
From the interview, I learned that Gates approached the world with a “making bet” mindset. He wasn’t afraid to take risks. He was willing to approach the unknown. The bets sometimes failed (e.g. Microsoft Bob), but I believe this mindset is a key factor behind Gates’ success.
Another example that comes to my mind is Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com. Back in 1994, he already had a good corporate job. But at that time, a new trend – the Internet – was emerging. Bezos saw a big opportunity there and, using regret-minimization framework, decided to make a bet by leaving his job and building Amazon.com. He wouldn’t be where he is today if he didn’t make that bet.
In essence, you have two options in living your life: live safely or live making bets. If you want to get the most out of your life, however, there is no question: making bets is the best option. That’s how you leap forward.
I’m still learning myself, but from what I’ve learned so far, here are a few things you need to do to have a lifestyle of “making bets”:
1. Build a cushion.
As I wrote above, “making bets” means taking calculated risks. You must carefully consider how you can handle the risks. It’s unwise to put yourself in a position where you will lose everything if you fail, especially if you have a family that depends on you.
For that reason, you should build a cushion. Make sure that, if you fail, it will be a soft landing rather than a hard crash.
Here are two ways to build a financial cushion:
- Build an emergency fund.
Set aside enough money to cover at least six months of living expenses. That gives you enough time to bounce back from a failure without sacrificing your family. It will be even better if you have additional savings and investments.
- Build multiple income streams.
This is my favorite way of building financial cushion. Why? Because it guards your income in case of a failure. You might not even need to use your emergency fund. Building multiple income streams isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort.
In addition to financial cushion, you should also have a cushion in other areas of your life. For instance, you should have enough social support to give you the mental energy to handle setbacks. You should also maintain your physical energy through rest, exercise, and healthy food.
2. Keep yourself up to date.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft after they saw the cover of an electronic magazine featuring a cheap microcomputer. They saw a big opportunity there. Similarly, you should keep yourself up to date with new developments so that you can see opportunities before it’s too late.
3. See it as an adventure.
When you decide to make a bet, see it as an adventure. This mindset will help you navigate through the challenges. It will also help you handle failures the right way. Instead of losing heart because of them, you will see them as a normal part of the adventure.
This was how Steve Jobs convinced Steve Wozniak to start Apple. He told Wozniak that, even if they failed, they would have a fun adventure.
With a lifestyle of “making bets,” your life will be far from boring. Yes, you might experience setbacks here and there, but your life will be full and exciting. It’s a life worth living for.