“What would you do, if you knew you could not fail?”
This has been asked countless times. It has been asked as a way to motivate people, or get people thinking about what they really want out of life. After all, if you could not fail, you would take all the risks – is the way the thinking goes. And by playing safe, you’re not living your best life (ugh… I hate that saying so much! But I’ll allow it, just to prove my point.)
We are told that nothing great came from playing safe, and so playing safe leads to being a potato. I do not disagree with this – a human has to be uncomfortable in order to enact change even if enacting that change will make them more uncomfortable in the short term.Just think about studying for exams for example. Your short term is super uncomfortable, so that your long term can be better off. Humans have this amazing ability to plan ahead, to delay gratification and to adapt to any circumstance.
Yet, the whole “What would you do if you knew you could not fail” comes up time and time again.
The answers are always “start a business”, “ask that girl out” or “go for that job promotion”. Thats all well and good. My answer is “run for Prime Minister” or “learn how to fly like Superman”. For some reason those answers are too big. People asking that question always tell me to be more realistic. Suddenly the thought experiment is over.
But the biggest issue I have with this is that failure is a part of life. It is ingrained into our very DNA. Our DNA fails and we age. Our cells stop metabolizing and we get slow and fat. Its what we choose to do with this failure that defines us. We know that we are breaking down on a cellular level, and so we rage against it with gym, and healthy eating and getting enough sleep.
The better question to ask is “What are you prepared to fail at? And what will you do with that failure?” You could let it stop you. You tried it once and found it harder than you thought. You tried it and it didn’t go as planned. You tried it and it didn’t work because its his fault.
You tried it, you weren’t that good, but you’re going to make yourself better. You tried it and it didn’t go to plan, so you’re going to adapt the plan. You tried it and it failed because of you – no one else. You.
This gives you something to aim for. You can do it because you have found a way to not do it. If it fails again, you have found another way to not do it.
“I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”Thomas Edison
These days, we are so scared of the word failure that we shut it out of our minds. We talk about success, and what you can do with success, like we can just pick it up with the monthly groceries, all while avoiding the hard topic of failure.
You can let the failure define you, or you can define the failure.
Don’t ask me what I would not do if I could not fail. Rather, ask me what I am prepared to fail at.