Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain by Ryan Blair is the story and business insights of a self-made serial entrepreneur, who went from being a gang member as a kid (including serving time in juvenile prison) to making millions in his early 20’s. Sounds intriguing. The book is billed as not only inspirational, but also a guide with a road map to help others become successful entrepreneurs. When I was asked to review the book, I agreed thinking it would be a good story if nothing else.
Initially, Ryan sets the stage for what happened in his life in the opening chapters. There’s some interesting story lines here. Getting out of trouble of being a gang member to eventually become a successful entrepreneur is no easy feat. Unfortunately, much of the story is glossed over as just a means for establishing Ryan’s history and reputation. Ryan also adds some good stories to some of the chapters as a means of explaining a point or illustrating a situation. Near the end of the book Ryan realizes that his stepfather really was his Dad in every important meaning of the word. How Ryan struggled without a good male role model and his relationship with his natural father and stepfather would have made for an engaging story — if only that was the true focus of the book.
Roadmap & Guide
While billed as a roadmap and guide, there wasn’t anything particularly insightful in Ryan’s recommendations. You’ve probably read them and heard them all before. I honestly had a hard time getting through the middle of the book and almost set it down. However, there is some really good information about financing and investing, which is a black hole to most entrepreneurs. And some of the insights that are shared with personal stories are helpful in terms of learning from another’s experiences. But the book’s roadmap and guide is shakey at best — there are much better guides in terms of starting and running a business or startup.
Role Model & Lessons Learned
Ryan is definitely a role model for troubled youths who are discouraged about their future. But, similar to others, Ryan didn’t get out of trouble on his own (although he did have to have the perseverance and grit to succeed) — he found mentors and others in his network to help him out every step of the way. That was one lesson that wasn’t blatantly spelled out: you succeed because of who you know and the relationships with those people (whether business or personal). Ryan really isn’t a self-made entrepreneur. He never went it alone. He always had help: either from his step-father, investors or his business teams.
I think Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur tries to be both an inspiring story and a roadmap and doesn’t succeed at either. I think it would have been a much more interesting read if it was written as a memoir or story, with insights added as part of the storyline. There could even be a pretty interesting non-fictional story written around Ryan’s life. But as a business road map, I wouldn’t recommend this book. If you’re looking for some insights or case studies from someone who has been successful with startups, or need some recommendations for financing or getting investors, there definitely are some good tidbits.
What are your thoughts if you’ve read the book?
NOTE: All links above to Amazon are affiliate links. I was sent a free copy of the book and asked if I would review it. As with any review I do, this is my honest opinion. If you feel differently after reading this book, please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading!