“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
This simple yet powerful question can be the catalyst for positive change in your life and, in turn, the lives you touch.
A quick internet search shows that variations of this question are attributed to Sebastian Thrun, popularized by Regina Dugan’s TEDTalk, and likely originated with Robert Schuller. Credit to all who have challenged others to take action based on its powerful premise.
At a local coffee shop less than a year ago, a friend of mine and I were discussing this very question. One of the first answers that came to me was, “I would speak to large audiences to inspire them to build a sense of belonging in their communities; to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
It was that question and answer that led me to pursue opportunities to do just that. And after months of crafting a meaningful message, developing networks to help shape the message and the methods to deliver it, lots of conversations with mentors who inspire large audiences on a regular basis, reading and more reading, writing and more writing, I presented my new message to an overflow crowd in a small presentation room at the Ontario Student Leadership Conference in Niagara Falls.
My message was well-received. The assembled student leaders and advisors were engaged throughout. The feedback I received was positive and encouraging. There were some passages I will edit moving forward; anecdotes that I thought would be effective that were not, ad libs that struck a chord that I will expand on. It was rewarding, satisfying, and hopefully a taste of things to come. I am pleased that I have been able to arrange further opportunities to share with larger audiences based on this humble beginning.
But enough about me.
What might your answer to that question be? Maybe it is a grand answer with life-changing potential like a different vocation or living in a faraway land. Maybe it is something within your current environment like asking for a promotion, a raise, or starting that DIY project you have always wanted to tackle. Perhaps it involves starting a conversation with a friend or relative about that topic that has been the elephant in the room for too long.
There are many multi-step plans and self-help strategies to make your answer to this question a reality. They will include concepts like understanding why your answer matters, why you want to achieve the answer, writing down your goal, finding someone to share your goal with, breaking the goal down into manageable tasks, counting the cost involved in these steps along the way, visioning what it will look like when you reach your goal, accessing your allies, waking up early in the morning, eating better, exercising, posting positive quotations and images on your social media, and more.
Meanwhile, as we contemplate our individual answers, might there be some that apply to all of us? Are there things we can all do that we know won’t fail? I believe there are, and that a commitment to doing them can bring positive change in our life, and in turn the lives of those we connect with.
Pay someone a compliment. Tell the person beside you as you read this, or that you drive with every day, or that you raise a child with, a genuine compliment that comes from something you know about them or have noticed about them, and watch them light up.
Offer a helping hand to someone who needs it. Is there a person you know is swamped at work? Or at home? Or swamped in a different way from being alone? Do something tangible to provide them some small relief. Knowing that someone thought to take action on their behalf will mean as much as the help you provide.
Here’s a good one: say you’re sorry. Want a sure ‘can’t fail’ action that will positively impact any relationship? Apologize. You may not even be convinced that what you did, or said, or didn’t do or say, requires an apology. Do it anyway. Long after the injustice (perceived or otherwise) is forgotten, the step you took to bring restoration will be remembered.
Give up something for someone else. Show gratitude. Be optimistic.
The list of things we can do that won’t fail, and that will in turn make our lives better and enrich the lives of others, is longer than we might have first imagined. And the great thing is they don’t require a multi-step plan or a new self-help strategy to achieve. They just need a commitment to putting the interests of someone else ahead of our own.