It’s Monday and in my world that means staff meetings until almost lunchtime. Normally this is an arduous and annoying way to begin the week, but in the last meeting of the morning, someone happened to bring up this quote
What would you choose to do if you knew you could not fail?
I googled it to see who said it. Some guy named Robert H. Schuller, who’s apparently a televangelist. Hmm. Well, his choice of career aside, I think it’s an excellent question.
Think of all the things you never do or try because you are afraid of failure. I know that I tend to have a habit of avoiding things I know I won’t be good at. I like being the best at stuff. I was good at school, good at writing. I stunk at sports, stunk at dance. I played guitar until I met my talented musician husband (one of those sickening people who can pick up almost any instrument and play it), then quit because I couldn’t possibly hope to be as good as he (both because my fingers are short and because there are only so many hours in the day, and I’ll spend my spare ones writing, thanks). I’ve moved a little out of my comfort zone as far as that’s concerned as I’ve gotten older. But still, I think it’s a tendency many of us have. We are all afraid of failing on some level. Professionally. Personally. In relationships. In families. And to varying degrees, that fear of failure informs our decisions and behavior.
But really, think about the question. If you know you can’t fail at something, it takes all the risk out of it, doesn’t it? It makes whatever that thing is less scary, makes it easier to take that first step. Putting aside more noble goals of world peace or the cures to disease, maybe you want to be a professional dancer or a chef or to open your own bed and breakfast or travel the world. The possibilities are endless.
When you set out on the path to becoming a writer, the road is fraught with places for failure. You may never finish the book. You may never find an agent. You may submit and submit and never get your darling accepted by a publisher. But none of these negative outcomes have to be stopping points. You can toss the first book and write a new one. You could try a new genre. You could try short stories. Freelance. You can keep searching for that agent and that perfect publisher. You keep toiling, plodding along because somewhere, somehow you have faith that you will not ultimately fail. And it’s that confidence, that faith and belief rather than a hands down guarantee that separates real writers from the dabblers.
So what about you? What would you choose to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?