What Would You Do Even If You Knew That You Might Fail?

‘What would you do even if you knew that you might fail?’

This is a question asked in one of my favourite productivity books “Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.

It’s not a productivity book, per se. It’s a book about unleashing your creativity into the world even if you’re scared to!

However, summarised in one sentence, this book basically says – take action! Go do what you want to do and to heck with external or internal judgement. You only live once so make it happen.

Here’s an awesome passage from one of the very last chapters which I urge you to consider, particularly when fear is holding you back from moving forward;

There is a famous question that shows up, it seems, in every single self-help book ever written: What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?

But I’ve always seen it differently. I think the fiercest question of all is this one: What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?

What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?

To me, that question is asking us to consider what we love to do so much, that even if we gave it a lifetime of effort and never reached the lofty heights of stardom or great riches would we do anyway?

Versus, the usual question which might evoke answers such as starting a billion dollar business, becoming a pop star, an astronaut, a multiple award winning best selling author, climb Mount Everest, starring alongside Ryan Gosling, and all those other big seemingly unachievable goals reserved only for the rich and famous.

And I must admit, as I get older the question becomes easier to answer.

When we’re young we’re happy to sacrifice our time and joy chasing things we think will make us happy such as a big house, a nice car, all the latest gadgets and ‘stuff’.

Society defines success as having the biggest bank account or the most accolades, so it’s no surprise we buy into this and work our asses off to keep up with the Joneses.

But as we get older and hopefully wiser, our priorities shift.

We start to realize that the things we once thought would bring us happiness are mostly just superficial and fleeting.

We begin to understand and appreciate that;

time is our most precious commodity.

So why spend a minute of it doing things we hate to buy crap we don’t need.

I get that we need to eat, have a roof over our heads, and pay the bills, but beyond that as Maslow so thoughtfully laid out for us, we don’t need the latest Tesla or to live in Beverley Hills to be happy (although I wouldn’t turn it down if someone gifted it to me 😂).

Happiness comes from connection, friendship, self-esteem and the feeling that we’re being the best version of ourselves.

So, take a minute to ask yourself that question.

What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?

The answer might not come easily.

Somewhere along the way, as you were navigating the minefield of life, being bombarded with images of what life is ‘supposed’ to look like, and filling your mind with the dreams, successes and achievements of others, you may have swept your dreams under the carpet.

But you need to give yourself permission to dust them off and shine them up.

As Elizabeth so rightly says;

‘What else are you going to do with your time here on earth – not make things? Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your love and your curiosity?’

At the risk of simply quoting others (they say it so well);

woman playing in the rain with quotes ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ - Mary Oliver - The Summer Day

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