If You Couldn’t Fail?

Family dinner discussions are always interesting at my house, and this past weekend was no exception with one of my children asking “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?”

There are many things to think about as you ponder the answer. Was your mind filled with numerous answers, or did you struggle to find one? Did you think about personal or professional goals?

Some of you thought of big things like quitting your job, starting your own business, or moving to an island (wait… that was me), while others may have thought of a new approach to take with a customer, colleague or friend in an effort to change the course of a conversation. Maybe some of you just thought about a new skill or hobby that you have always wanted to learn.

Of course, the next obvious question was “what is holding you back?” Everyone who was a part of my weekend discussion had a quick and easy answer for this one, including me, and it usually involved some fear regarding money or time. What I found even more fascinating was the conversation that followed after some of the less obvious questions. After really diving into this topic, I found that everyone arrived at very different conclusions regarding what, if anything, was really holding them back – and more importantly whether or not it was insurmountable.

So as you think about this, rather than focusing on what is holding you back, which has an answer that is too easy, try these questions instead:

  1. If you tried and failed, how bad could the result actually be?
  2. If you succeeded, how fantastic could the result actually be?
  3. Do you have friends, colleagues, or mentors who could help you succeed?
  4. Are you surrounding yourself with positive people who have a “can do attitude” or would everyone around you laugh and say that you were being ridiculous?
  5. What if you knew that you would succeed – in your mind is this different than “not failing”?
  6. How hard would it be for you to acquire the skills or resources that would likely enable success?
  7. Are you willing to make any changes personally in order to redefine what success looks like for you?

My key takeaway this weekend was that sometimes we are our own worst enemy when it comes to defining success and failure because we look for the result to be on the far end of either spectrum – an absolute success or an abysmal failure – and in an effort to avoid abysmal failure we often don’t take chances that could be very rewarding.

I also realized that my definition of success has changed over time and will continue to evolve. I appreciate the small wins that I see others make on a journey, and I need to celebrate my own along the way too. Likewise, my definition of failure has changed. My 5 year old, who plays a lot of video games, reminds me that you really don’t ever fail, you just have an opportunity to “respawn”. I like that attitude!

With that in mind, maybe the better question is “what wouldn’t you do – if you knew that you couldn’t fail?”

LeeAnne Vaughn

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