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Afraid to Fail? Ask Yourself This Question to Succeed


We are often our own worst critics, sniping away at our own hopes and dreams before we even have a chance to chart a course of action. It’s hard to get much of anything done in the face of so much self-perpetuated negativity. In a TED Talk a few years back, Google’s Regina Dugan suggested we ask ourselves one essential question, to change our approach.

winding road 

(Photo Credit: James Forbes via Unsplash)

That question: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

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“If you really ask yourself this question,” Dugan said, “you can’t help but feel uncomfortable.” Fear of failure “keeps us from attempting great things … and life gets dull. Amazing things stop happening.”

Move past it, and “impossible things suddenly become possible.”

In his new book A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger breaks down that question even further, suggesting that people add “what-if” scenarios to their assessment of situations that would normally inspire a fear of failure. So a product developer, for example, might ask, “What if cost were not an issue?” (Berger’s example) while a person who has never learned to code might ask, “What if I knew this programming language?”

Obviously, cost will become an issue at some point, and acquiring skills takes time, but the idea is to stop beginning at the limitations and start with possibility, instead of self-censure. Only then can you really understand what you want to accomplish, and have any hope of actually doing it.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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