What would you accomplish if you knew you couldn’t fail?

I must admit, this is a question that I encountered yesterday afternoon. It got me into mulling about things. Offhand, here are some of my answers:

  • Perfect report card grades from pre-school to fourth year high school, and “ruler-like” (a.k.a. straight “1.0”s in my UP transcript)
  • A functional relationship, where it’s too functional that I probably would have been married with kids right now (I shudder at the thought)
  • More accounts than I could have handled by myself, resulting to at least 100% growth of my department
  • A cure for cancer so that my mom could still be with me
  • A guaranteed sustainable future for the world, backed by responsible consumption, innovative technologies, and utilization of clean and renewable energy resources
  • More money than I could ever imagine as a result of enterprising (or gambling), that I actually am already traipsing around the world as a woman of leisure
  • For crying out loud, world peace

Sure, the possibilities are limitless, and for a “failure is not an option” type of person like me, I may already be dreaming of the things I wish I could have done.

Yet, reality sinks in. Failure could well be an option. And it is this reality that makes me be on my A-game all the time (well, most of the time).

I remember the first time I got a 5.0 in class (5.0 in UP parlance is tantamount to a failure). It was our first activity in Radio Production class, where we had to present a story for three minutes, using sound effects alone. I remember the entire class understood our horror story, which was a feat in itself. However, our strict professor noted that we went over the time limit and as a subscriber to the traditional belief that radio programs must never go overtime, she put a big, fat, red “5” on our cards. For someone who is not used to academic failure, it threw me off and got me into brooding over what we could have done differently to shave a few seconds off at meet the exact three-minute mark. (For those wondering, I did get a decent final grade in that class by making up for subsequent productions following that overtime debacle.)

I know it’s a rather shallow experience, but I guess I’ve been blessed to not have made any decisions that ruined my life or career (so far). One of my former superiors, a woman who I think has one of the most brilliant minds ever, always drilled on us the value of excellence and how failure is not an option. I may be yelled at for the smallest of oversights, but I totally understand why.

If failure was really not a possibility, would you be working as hard? Would you be as driven?

Life will throw you so many opportunities for failure—from instances where a decision could change the course of your history to those seemingly inconsequential matters that get you into thinking if outcomes would have been different if you decided to do one thing differently. But see, it’s precisely that fear of failure that drives us to make something out of our careers, out of our lives—at least it is the truth for those who never let the fear of failure conquer them.

You’re not always going to get the right answers, and you may not win every battle you get yourself into, but hey, there’s got to be some accounting for how you played every game or fought every battle—and our own fear of failure (and consequently, our own definitions of success) could have easily shaped the manner in which we went into such things.

If failure was not really a possibility, would you really have achieved the things you wanted to achieve? Or would you just have sat back and let life pass you by?


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