When You Have Nothing Left To Lose, You Only Have Everything Left To Gain

More than two years ago, I was literally broken open by several challenges that happened to me all at once. Each crisis I was experiencing was affecting a different part of my whole.

As you can imagine, this is an astounding thing to have happen to someone.

Because, you see, we are usually taught to believe that a person only has to face one crisis at a time. But here I was, experiencing what it was like to have nearly each part of me in “crisis” mode at the exact same time.

When I look back at older posts, I recall how many of them began with my own attempts at inspiring myself. Some of them were simply acting as ways of processing what I was going through at the time. That’s why so many of them don’t give advice as much send the message: “Hey, life’s hard. But you can get through it.”

When I look back at what I wrote on this blog during that first year, sometimes I get embarrassed.

Let’s just say if I knew that one day this blog was going to reach more than a thousand people, I would have thought twice about sharing so many private details about my life.

I also would have been less inclined to show you my ugly side as well as my pretty side. (I mean, did I really have to tell the world that my hands get so sweaty that sometimes elementary school kids think I have a superpower?)

Despite this, somehow, my willingness to be open with strangers did something I didn’t expect: it made me successful.

Now, how exactly does that happen, you ask?

Well, it appeared that I had stumbled upon a universal law that I never knew existed until then.

When I Had Nothing To Lose…

Back then, when I started this blog, I had nothing. I’ve talked about it many times before, so I won’t get into it here, but I literally was stripped down to the bone.

Back then, I let it all out. I put all my cards on the table. And I wonder if people thought I was crazy for doing so.

But you see, at the time, I felt as if I had lost everything already. I literally had nothing left to lose. So, I figured that, whatever I did, nothing could be as worse as what I had already gone through.

So, for that first year, I literally did whatever I felt like doing, and shared whatever I felt like sharing. Since there was literally nothing left to take away from me, I went forward, and showed you were I bled, and then, went ahead and told you what I did to make the bleeding stop.

And now that most of the bleeding has stopped, I am shocked at how freely I was able to share the deepest part of me with you back in those days.

Now That I Have Everything To Lose…

Things have changed in the last two years.

Now that my success is growing, I’m started to gain things I fear I might lose again, and this is making me more guarded, more hesitant, and more wary of what I share publicly.

When you share so much of yourself with complete strangers, sometimes it feels like utter insanity. Sometimes I have to pretend as if I’m still only writing to my sister in order to get the writing done.

I mean, to think that I have to write something that has to please hundreds (if not thousands) of people is far too much for me to consider.

But if I didn’t believe that something truly transformative and healing happens when we share our stories with each other—I wouldn’t be in this business.

So, that is why, despite my hesitancy, I continue to move forward and keep on sharing—even if any normal person would’ve stopped long ago.

When You Have Nothing Left To Lose, You Only Have Everything To Gain

There is an important lesson we can both learn from the Ollin that you first met two years and a half ago.

That Ollin was literally starting his life from scratch. That Ollin had wiped the slate clean (or rather, the slate had been wiped clean for him). That Ollin had the courage to take a risk—a risk that he had no idea would change his life, and the lives of others, so completely.

That Ollin had nothing to lose, and because he knew he had nothing to lose, he knew he had only everything to gain. And, as a result, a lot of wonderful things came of it.

Believing he had nothing to lose was exactly what made that Ollin so successful (even if he didn’t realize it). And believing you have nothing to lose is exactly what will make you successful (even if you don’t realize it).

So, if you feel as if you have lost everything, can you try to see this as a gift? Can you try to see that now that you have nothing left to lose, you only have everything to gain?

If you haven’t lost anything recently, then ask yourself:

“If I had nothing to lose, what would I finally let myself gain?”

A new relationship? A new job? A new outlook on life? A new spiritual practice? A new exercise routine? A deeper relationship with a family member? A new hobby? A new group of friends? A new marriage? A new apartment? A new home? A new child? A new novel to write? A new story to tell? A new life… to live?

Finally: those who, in the past, had lost everything but now are back on their feet, ask yourself:

“Did I really have nothing then, or had I just gained everything without realizing it?”

Keep That “Nothing To Lose” State of Mind (Even If You Have Everything To Lose)

I have gained so much over the last two years that, today, I can’t say that I have nothing to lose.

But I do know that having a “nothing to lose” state of mind engenders both courage and creativity–and courage and creativity are the essential building blocks of success.

So, even if I feel like I have everything to lose, I must go forward as if I still had nothing to lose. If I don’t do this, I know that my creativity will become stifled—and my courage, weakened. And that situation can only lead to failure.

Goodbye Illusion: Hello Truth!

Why does a “nothing to lose” state of mind work?

Well, it’s only when we’ve lost something that we can truly gain something.

You see, when we feel as if we are losing everything, something wiser than us is working “behind-the-scenes” to unblind us and unbind us from our illusions. It may seem jarring to you, but really, it is quite gentle (gentler than you can ever imagine).

It is the crumbling of the illusion that is causing you the pain–not the truth that is surfacing. 

The truth never hurts. The truth only heals, helps, and frees.

In truth, we can be free. In truth, we can be.

But, in illusion, we remain trapped.

To fall into truth, then, the illusion must be torn away from us.

It is unfortunate that sometimes we must lose everything in order to understand this. But, really, it is only the way. We are prone to want to hold on to things, but once there is nothing to hold on to, we can’t help but realize that the only thing we can truly hold on to is something deeper and impenetrable—something undying and eternal that we can hold on to at all times, both during the good and the bad.

That undying and eternal part of us is our spirit. And nothing, no nothing, can ever break that. When we understand that our spirit is our anchor, our captain, and that ever other part of us–our emotions, our thoughts, our bodies, our careers–are there to serve this captain and follow its orders, then we move through life with greater ease, with greater peace, and with greater respect for life.

But without the tearing away, without the losing of everything, we can never know that we had everything to begin with. We can never know that it is our spirit that is the core of who we are, and that nothing can ever tarnish it. 

There is great paradox in this statement, that we must lose everything in order to gain everything, but one can’t help but feel the truth in it.

Because somewhere in the Losing, there is a Gaining that we are also experiencing. And in that, there is so much hope. Oh, there is so much hope. So much. So much. So much hope.

much hope,


The Sunflower and The Desert

by Ollin Morales

A sunflower, who was bright but never bloomed,
and who lived in a beautiful garden
in front of a cream-colored adobe room,
awoke one day to find itself in a vast, lonely desert.

When the sunflower realized that all its sunflower friends were gone,
and that there were no more signs of its old home,
and that it would have to live in the desert for the rest of its life,
(and that eventually it’d dry up, crumble, and vanish)
the sunflower finally broke open
 and stretched its petals wide.

It did this because
there was no one around to see it
there was no one around to care.
It did this because
it knew it was doomed;
it knew it had nothing left.
It did this because
it knew it was all alone.

That’s why the sunflower opened up,
and finally gave of its pollen freely.

But then a surprising thing happened:
the bees came by and asked to have the sunflower’s pollen
so that they could spread the sunflower’s golden dust across the desert.

The sunflower agreed
and soon
there was a boon:
a whole new set of sunflower friends bloomed
all across the desert floor!

And before the sunflower knew it,
it had friends again,
and before the sunflower knew it,
it had its home again,
and before the sunflower knew it—
it closed its petals.

The sunflower closed its petals
so that it could avoid losing its friends
so that it could avoid losing its home
so that it could avoid losing everything it had just gained.

But when the sunflower awoke the next day,
it found itself once again in a vast, lonely desert.

Having lost all that it had gained the day before,
the sunflower wept the dew from its soul.

Unfortunately, this is how the story played out for years and years,
with the sunflower never truly understanding
the lesson 
the desert was trying to teach it.

[Editor’s note: this post originally featured the song “Goodbye” by Sean Fournier]

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40 comments on “When You Have Nothing Left To Lose, You Only Have Everything Left To Gain

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    Beautiful, heartfelt writing. I agree with you in my head and heart, but my actions… well, they still leave a lot to be desired.

  2. Andrea Lewis says:

    Ollin, this blog had a profound effect on me. Thank you! This is exactly where I am with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Like you the past few years of my life have been turned topsy-turvy. Your blog really resonated with me and gave me the boost to not look back but to strive ahead despite some fears.

  3. I have been broken open and lost everything – several times in my life. Each time, I regained something new, a new life, relationship, friends, that I never would have expected or been able to create without giving in to the loss. I’m losing ground again and it’s scaring me a lot. But I keep running into things like your post today that seem like they were put there just for me to read. And to let go. You and Jeff Goins keep shining light and showing me the next step. That’s all I have, the next step. Thank you, Ollin.

  4. Eclectic Jade says:

    Reblogged this on Eclectic Jade and commented:

  5. Eclectic Jade says:

    Thank You for sharing your story and inspiring others to do the same.

  6. WanderWoman says:

    Thanks for this, Ollin. I needed this. : )

  7. A worthy state of mind to shoot for–nothing to lose. I’m guilty of holding back because of fear of losing what I have. Thanks for the good reminder.

  8. Voltech says:

    I would call this post “inspirational” but I think that’d be both a massive understatement and an injustice to you.

    Thankfully, I’ve lived a peaceful life so far, and I don’t have any right to complain. Even so, I’ve never been as outgoing as I could have been — but little by little, I want to try and change that. My dream is to become a writing hero, someone whose stories can bring smiles to the people; I may have a long road ahead, and I may not have much to offer right now, but — just as you said — I have everything to gain.

    Thanks for the post. If I’m ever feeling down, I’ll be sure to come back and read it again.

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you I am very flattered by your kind comment.

      • Voltech says:

        Hey, I’m the one who should be thanking you. Oh wait, I already did that…well, another round wouldn’t hurt, I suppose.

        Thanks for the post. It was — if you’ll allow my vernacular to diverge — radical.

  9. Daniela says:

    Since I found your blog, your posts touched and inspired me because of warm honesty in them. This post is the same, only more so. It is an important post for me. Because it showed me that they are others like me. Others in our family of humanity whose lives have been serious of losses, whose hearts have been open and discarded, others who tasted desolate pain. Who courted loneliness and longing. And still found strength in themselves to leave a record of it for others on the same journey of human endeavour. It does take all we have; courage, love, very essence of us. It is a brave act to strip before fellow humans. For whatever may come.

    Thank you

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you so much Daniela. I appreciate your very kind words, and will be saving them to remind me of why I keep up the blog in the first place. Thank you.

  10. Daniela says:

    Reblogged this on Lantern Post and commented:
    This is the very first time I ever used reblog. And there is a good reason for it. Ollin Morales is one of the first bloggers I found at the very beginning of my blogging journey, which of course is still in its infancy. It was a fortunate find indeed. Ollin is one of those people whose writings make you feel like you belong somewhere even if you are only stumbling with your first tentative steps. Despite clearly having large number of followers to interact with, Ollin responded to me personally and with more than one word! He does not ‘blog by numbers’ like so many other blogs with large ‘tribes’ do.
    The truth is that since I found Ollin’s blog, his posts touched and inspired me because of warm honesty in them. The post below spoke to me so strongly that I decided to reblog it on my own blog. Also I have not used reblog function before so it is sort of learning for me too.
    But most importantly, the blog touched my most vulnerable, most tender part; it showed me that they are others like me in this ‘lonely planet’ of ours. Others in our family of humanity whose lives have been serious of losses, whose hearts have been open and discarded, others who tasted desolate pain. Who courted loneliness and longing. And still found strength in themselves to leave a record of it for others on the same journey of human endeavour. It does take all we have; courage, love, very essence of us. It is a brave act to strip before fellow humans. For whatever may come.
    Ollin spoke about it all beautifully in this post.

  11. Yvette Carol says:

    Hi Ollin! Inspirational as always. So that is how you speak with such depth and eloquence of breakdown, and the constant striving of the human spirit. I don’t know your story being new to your blog. But I feel the resonance of truth in your words. As the lovely pic I put on FB said today, those who are religious seek to avoid hell, those who are spiritual have already been to hell. I’ve been broken in two as well, as I’m sure most people have who have lived 47 years. Yes I agree my destruction was truly my birth into a better life. Keep speaking from the heart boyo! I take quotes from your posts (ascribed to you of course), for sharing 🙂 ‘Your future is so bright it’s burning my eyes’

    • Ollin says:

      Hey Yvette, for and for others, here is the post that more clearly explains that moment of crisis in my life that I refer to in this post; http://writetodone.com/2011/01/20/why-youre-only-14-of-a-writer-and-how-to-make-you-whole-again/ – it was actually my introduction to the larger online writing world so it was quite a bold move. I don’t think I would have made such a bold move today, haha. So it’s very interesting how success starts to change your perspective and actions. But I’m going to keep trying to be honest and raw, because I know that is what helps people and makes them feel less alone. Thank you Yvette for your kind words!

  12. RD Meyer says:

    I will admit that staying “true to the heart” can be hard. As we grow more successful, we tend to get more cautious in order to protect that success. If only more of us realized that it was precisely that true-to-self writing that brought us success in the first place.

    • Ollin says:

      You’re telling me. That’s a real challenge for me as my success grows. It’s hard to stay true to yourself because you want to hold on to success and fear to lose it. But you are right, our true-to-ourself personality is what got us success in the first place–so we need to keep to it!

  13. Katie says:

    It’s very interesting how the majority of brilliant work/writing comes as a result of us finding the ‘end of our rope’.

    Sometimes I guess we find the most hope in coming close to that point of giving up.

    I’m very glad you’ve come this far, Ollin. You should be so proud of yourself! In being real, raw, honest with your readers- you have challenged and inspired us- and you only have higher heights to reach! Thank you for showing us how it’s done, and for always being true to yourself. Quite an example.

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you, thank you, thank you Katie. It is challenging, but when I hear from people like you, I know I’m on the right track with this honesty thing and I’m going to keep at it!

  14. a quiet person says:

    Truth requires vulnerability, and vulnerability requires courage. What a courageous post. Thank you for posting your truth, it’s inspiring.

  15. This post is so inspiring! You’ve left no words for me to add. Just keep it up and thank you so much for sharing all of your lessons, ups and downs in life… because that’s what a blog’s for: sharing, whether it be the ugly or beautiful you – everyone loves/respects everyone’s opinion anyway 🙂 [I hope so!]

  16. Ollin,

    This post has many layers of depth, taking us all the way straight through illusion. I liked the thread that runs through: staying with the view that we have nothing to lose empowers us in unexpected ways. This is an idea that fully resonates with me right now! Precisely what I need to hear in this moment. I\’m so honored to know you and have the privilege to be touched by your words.

  17. […] what I realized while reading this post on Courage 2 Create titled ‘When You Have Nothing Left To Lose, You Only Have Everything Left To Gain‘ yesterday. It started me thinking, what do I really have to lose? Well a lot of things […]

  18. my life was turned upside down 32 years tomorrow. I took one step and then another and then another. and my life has opened up in ways I never imagined. But ironically, in the midst of ‘having it all’ I realize that in some ways I have lost it all again. it has lots its meaning, in many ways. and so I’m starting over. without the physical losses. actually without many of the defined losses from so long ago. and yet, something is breaking lose and going free. i’m not sure what it is yet, but it will show itself. as my favorite book says “More will be revealed”.

  19. […] When You Having Nothing Left to Lose, You Have Everything Left to Gain highlights a universal principle that will infuse your writing with power. […]

  20. Karen Wan says:

    I have found this to be true so many times in my life. Having something to lose, whether money, reputation, love or otherwise has sometimes led me to be too risk averse. Often when I have nothing to lose, I do what is best. I like the sunflower story, because we do have to remind ourselves of this. Thank you for the reminder to live with courage and trust in our true treasure within ourselves.

  21. Joy says:

    What a beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    A year ago, I promised myself I would be transparent in all of my connections, which unexpectedly led to expansion in all realms. The mind/body connection is huge for me, so this promise reminds me to invest in enriching and enlivening; vital to my “existence” because what “I had to lose” was my spirit, my spunk, my verve. Thank you for the affirmation!

  22. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for this.

  23. […] When You Have Nothing Left to Lose, You Only Have Everything Left to Gain – On one of the most powerful attitudes you can have as a writer or blogger. […]

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