40+FAB Blog

If you couldn’t fail

“What would you do if you couldn’t fail?” You might have heard this famous question which is usually asked when trying to get people to think about what they would ideally like to be doing with thier lives.

Before I try to answer that question, let us look at failure from two perspectives. The first one is failure in terms of an attempt to achieve a goal, and the second is when a thing ceases to work properly. The first is a failure of aspiration, and the second is a failure of function.

Functional failure is limiting, but we have seen many rise above this kind of failure to achieve phenomenal things. There are great men and woman who through the ages have aspired to do great things in spite of blindness, deafness, lameness etc.

So the question would not make sense from a functional perspective as the failure of most of our functions cannot be controlled by us. People are born with functional failures, or are involved in an unforeseen circumstance like an accident which causes it.

Aspirational failures however are more in our control, but having said that, this is one area where we do need to fail, because failure leads to great learning that sharpens our aspirations and makes us better at planning for the future.

So what would you do if you could not fail? The answer is nothing. If you truly have not failed, you have not learnt anything, and if you have learnt nothing, then you are mostly like to produce nothing, or at best maintain whatever status quo you find yourself in.