This week, I was listening to an episode of Gary Vaynerchuk’s podcast, in which he was interviewing Tim Ferriss. They were answering phone calls from listeners, many of whom were interesting in starting or growing their own businesses. A common thread in questions was the concern about the ‘risky’ aspect of starting a business. What if it fails? What if it isn’t profitable? What if you lose money in the process?

A common thread in Gary and Tim’s responses was that if we take a broad enough view, most things are far lower risk than we would think. Sure, our startup or website or app might ‘fail’, but even if it does, we’ll have learnt so much from building it that the experience will be net positive. We might have taught ourselves to code, we might have met new people and expanded our network, we might have gained some skills in how to sell stuff.

Tim Ferriss’ podcast is one of the most ‘successful’ in the world, with over 200 million downloads, and he’s able to charge tens of thousands of dollars of sponsorship fees for each episode. He started it out by committing to doing 5 episodes, and his thinking was ‘at the very least, even if this podcast ends up failing, I’ll still have improved my interviewing skills and I’ll have learnt how to record and produce audio content’.

When I started my YouTube channel, I knew that even if it should ‘fail’ (however we choose to define that), I’ll still have had fun learning how to make videos, I’ll have improved my confidence on camera (which would hopefully bleed into real life) and at the very least, it’ll create some memories that would be cool to look back on. There was literally no downside to starting the channel, and it’s been the single most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I like the phrase “at the very least”. It encourages us to actively think about capping the downside, ensuring that every new thing we try will help us level-up our characters even if it fails by more traditional metrics.