Lincoln to Sherman: Nothing Risked – Nothing Gained

After his tyrannical march to the sea, the capturing and burning of Savannah, Sherman sent a letter to Lincoln, giving him what he called a “Christmas gift”. This was the ultimate gift, as the Civil War would meet its finale some months later, when the Confederate Army would surrender to the Union forces in early April.

Lincoln was reluctant on Sherman’s burning march to the sea. But on his “thank you” letter back to Sherman, Lincoln wrote and noted that he remembered “Nothing Risked – Nothing Gained”.

This idea: If you don’t risk, you will gain nothing — goes a long way. It’s been said in various ways through out history in philosophy and beyond. And is the basis for any avid gambler.

We must take chances. We must put ourselves out there. We must risk our dignity and ego to gain something in return.

When Sherman marched through Georgia and burned everything in sight – perhaps he risked his reputation. He risked losing the war. Lee was pinned to the North. On the other side of the country, another confederate army was awaiting Sherman’s next move. Sherman was forced to make a decision to not engage either of these armies, but instead, he captured Atlanta and marched onto Savannah, where he evacuated civilians, burned crops, infrastructure and left behind complete wreckage; the south’s capacity of warfare was broken. It was nothing short of complete brutality.

We come across these obstacles in everyday life. Whether it has to do with our careers or our relationships. We must take risks if we want to gain — easier said than done. We face the uncertainly of failure and humiliation. We have to ask ourselves, is it worth it?

The risk of losing can weigh heavy on the mind. We often choose the path of certainty. The path that is easy.

Today, we see so many talented people choose a career path that will just get them by. One that offers confidence of money and a limited struggle. They wrap themselves in a blanket of this security. As humans, we often yearn for more. More satisfaction and greatness, yet we often do very little about it. We often dream and speak of this yearning of greatness and satisfaction. We talk to our peers about what are plans are. We speak in hindsight and in hypothetical situations. But yet we seldom take the actions to make these things come true.

This is where the risk factor seems to come into play. Is it worth it?

Now this is where the lines fade. Each person has a different definition of what makes him or her happy? What they want or wanted to do? So when I speak in terms of “settling” you can choose whether or not to agree or not agree that you have settled.

You want to make music? You want to go to the NFL? You really like art, but the employment outlook isn’t good for a sculptor?

Yet you don’t think you got it — you think you’ll be poor. I’ll struggle and risk everything… you could have.

But stand back and look at what you’re risking. When you settle for the easy route, one that doesn’t challenge you, one that doesn’t test your will and ability to strive, you risk your happiness.

This route may offer happiness in the eyes of others, but often you’ll find yourself dreaming bigger and imagining the hypothetical day of change. If that’s what you’re willing to risk, then make music. Put yourself out there. Exit that bubble of self-security and try too something that REALLY satisfies you.

What happened to being an astronaut? Or a firefighter? There was a point in our life, where suddenly those BIG dreams faded and “reality” kicked in. Maybe it was when we started to understand money and how much it matters. How much we need it. Or maybe it was when we discovered sex. It changed how we dressed and acted. If I want to have sex, I need a job, I need money. Therefore being a musician or a sculptor or an astronaut is a tough route — I’ll have to risk things; I’ll have to take this security blanket off; I’ll have to work and strive and suffer and struggle — is it worth it?

We need to go back to when we were eleven. We need to again look forward to future and leave the cynical attitudes at the door. Find what makes you happy. DO what you enjoy and fight for that. This is life and there is only one at bat. There is no second chance. There is no other “time around” when you’ll be able to try something different.

If you dream of fame, money, glory or you just do prefer living in a cabin somewhere in the woods, in peace and harmony — then why aren’t you doing that?

Why wouldn’t you risk it? If you don’t risk it, you will gain nothing and therefore you will living with regret and continue to dream BIG, without ever reaching those dreams.

Sherman risked everything he had. He set his goals and he literally burned everything in his pathway to reach those goals. He had to win the war. It was his mission. His obligation. His risk…

He followed through.

It can start now. It can start tomorrow. It can start next Monday. You owe it to yourself.

-REH

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