Monday 8 June 2015

What would you do if you couldn't fail?

Have you ever thought about what you would do with your life if, not matter what it is, you couldn't fail at it?
Just think about it for a second. The possibilities. You could be anything you want: An astronaut. A rockstar. A doctor. A painter. A marathon runner. An accomplished chef. Whatever you set your heart on, it would work out - you would not fail.

I don't know about you, but I fail daily. Or wait, let me rephrase that: I fall daily, but I get back up again for the things that are important to me.
I once heard it said that people who are extremely accomplished at something - like, let's say, concert pianists - aren't necessarily geniuses. They are talented for sure - but what they have, and the average person doesn't, is much simpler: thousands upon thousands of hours of practice. If you start practicing something at a young age, and keep practicing, you will be better at it than someone who starts 20 years after you. Makes sense, right?

Yet so often we start out at something new, look at people who have done it for many, many years, and get discouraged. "How come I am not as good as this person" we grumble, and look at them with a twinge of envy.

"Don't compare your beginning with someone's middle" is a statement I have come across often in connection with blogging, but it holds true for other areas in our life as well.
Don't compare your first week on the new job with the seasoned co-worker who has done it for years.
Don't compare your 4-week old blog with someone who has been blogging for 4 years.
Don't compare your own lack of flexibility with someone who has been doing yoga for half their life.

When I was in High School I had to take English*, and I sucked at it big time. I couldn't pronounce the words, which meant I failed every verbal exam. Written English wasn't much better, so I never got anything better than a C.

*[For new readers: I'm originally from Germany, English is my second language.]

Little did I know that just a few short years later I would move to Canada. Failing was not an option - I was determined to learn to speak English. Did I 'fail' in the beginning though? Oh yes, every single day. I didn't understand what people were trying to tell me; when I tried to speak, the words weren't there; when I did find a few words, I pronounced them wrong or used them in the wrong context. I was so exhausted sometimes after a social event that I wanted to cry.

But I kept telling myself that it would come, and practiced as much as I could. My thick German-English dictionary was my constant companion in those days.

It paid off - after approximately six months I was speaking a pretty decent English, and after one year I was fluent.

We are way too terrified of failure. The word alone makes people uncomfortable. The attitude of "What if I fail?" is most responsible for killing dreams. The fear of possibly failing at something will keep us from even attempting it.

How about we start to look at it differently:

No matter what happens, we won't regard the outcome as failure.

Let's say your goal is to complete a marathon. You have never done one before, but you are determined to do this.
You train towards it, you get up early day after day to go for your runs. You get stronger, and faster, and fitter along the way.
However, as the race approaches you realize that you are not ready for a full marathon.
On the day of the race you complete the half marathon. Would you consider that a failure?

I wouldn't. You committed to a goal, you trained towards it, you showed up day after day. That's a win! You accomplished something amazing, something to be proud of. So what if your original goal was different?
We can't predict the future, and we can't predict how well we will perform at something we have never done before.

But who would say you failed when you got stronger, fitter, more confident and ran hundreds of miles in preparation for the marathon?
Any person that would shouldn't be in your life anyway.

So how about this:

 You can't fail when you really want something.

When you want something badly enough you will invest time, energy, sweat, blood and tears into it.
So much dedication towards a goal will bring results, I guarantee it.

Maybe you won't be the next J.K. Rowling of literature or the next Beyoncé, but you know what?
You will be amazing in your own right. 

So tell me, dear reader: What is it that you want to do, now that you know you cannot fail?



  1. So inspiring and thought provoking Miriam. I've been feeling pretty discouraged with work these days and I find myself wanting to pursue photography.....even though I've never owned much more than a cell phone camera.....I'm terrified of failing, but like you say, who knows what can happen!

  2. What a wonderful post for a Monday Miriam (even though I'm commenting Tuesday)!!! Yes, I second Lindsay and say it is very thought provoking. You make all some very great points!!

  3. Wow! I'm a new reader and I never would have guessed you aren't a native English speaker! I wish I could learn another language so well!

  4. What an uplifting post Miriam! I think I would open a boutique and sell girly, nerdy, cool stuff. I would make a part of the store a consignment for prom/party dresses too just because.

  5. great post! :) i've recently decided that i want to be a teacher. for a long time now, my dream is to teach children how to read and write. i didn't think of pursuing it before, because i was studying something else and thought that it was too late to change professions, but i realize now that it's never to late. i'm only in my twenties, a few more extra years of studying won't hurt. and then after that, i hope i can do what i love for the rest of my life. it might be considered failing in the eyes of people who find their dream jobs right away, but to me it's just a new opportunity :)

  6. I love this post! I honestly don't know what I would do if I couldn't fail because there are so many things I WANT to do. But you're absolutely right. Re-framing the issue makes it much less scary!

  7. JUST START! That's the best advice I can give. Start taking pictures with your phone every day, read advice about photography, look at photos you like, figure out what it is you like about them and then try to do it yourself - just start. I follow Allison's blog, she is a professional photographer and has tons of great tips! She is also completely self-taught. Have a look! And good luck!!

  8. Thanks M! I'm convinced that he hardest part is figuring out what we want in life. Once we have an idea, the getting it part is not as difficult as people might fear! We just have to accept that we will make plenty of mistakes, and not give up. Since I'm a sucker for inspiration videos, here is one for you that went around FB a while ago. Still love it!

  9. Thanks Emily!! I really, really wanted to learn it. Moving to the country and being absorbed in the language helps immensely, plus I love the English language! It's music to my ears :-)

  10. What an excellent idea! It sounds like a great business idea - maybe it will be in your future? You could also have a little yoga corner for your practice, so you don't have to do it in a stairwell at work any more ;-)

  11. That's fantastic, congratulations!! Figuring out what career to pursue is one of the greatest achievements ever. And this is such a rewarding one! No failure whatsoever that you didn't know that straight out of High School, most people don't know what they want to do with their life at 18. I'm thrilled for you!

  12. Exactly. You have to start when you are NOT ready, because if you want to wait until you are you probably never get started. Good luck with getting started on the things you want to do!

  13. Hahaha- maybe extra large dressing rooms.... I can hide in there and do my yoga. Too funny!

  14. Yes, I remember seeing this video. Very amazing. It's the figuring out part that hard :) P says that should be the fun part, but I'm too type A.


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