Open Forum: What Would You Do If You Were Guaranteed to Succeed?

I’ve had an insanely busy week. As a result, I’ve completely dropped the ball on writing a blog post this week. When I sat down to write, I was reminded of a question I heard recently.

The question?

What would you do in your life if you were absolutely confident that you would succeed?

And then it hit me. This is a great opportunity to try an idea I’ve had for a while – an open discussion. I spend a lot of time on this blog expounding on ideas. That makes sense since it’s my blog.

But what I really love is the dialogue and the conversation with you. So I want us to try an open discussion in the comments around a single question. It could bomb since it’s possible nobody will respond, but who cares? I also don’t know how often we’ll do these. However, this week seems like a great week to try it.

So, in the comment section at the bottom of this page, answer this question: What would you do in your life if you were absolutely confident that you would succeed? It could be anything. Just have at it – no restrictions.

To get the party kicked off, here’s my answer:

I would stop procrastinating on an e-book I’ve been working on and get it finished. I believe it can and will succeed, I’m just in the self-doubt phase of the project where I question everything about it. This is also why I have a team of fellow entrepreneurs I meet with on a weekly basis to hold my feet to the fire. I’ll no doubt hear about this on Monday.

What would you do?

Photo credit: Stuck In Customs

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  • Great question! I would write the book that I’ve been pondering for a while. I haven’t started because I’m crazy busy with design work, but I’m also worried people won’t care to buy it, although I know I have a lot to say and could offer valuable advice for business owners. Your post reminds me that we shouldn’t be worried about what others think or be scared of failure, we are our own worst enemy 🙂 Cheers!

    • Thanks for sharing Shannon! I wonder if we sometimes use our “busyness” as an excuse to justify not doing what we know we should be. I know I do. I’ll find anything I can to “distract me” from what I know I “should be” doing – especially if I’m afraid of failing.

      What do you think?

  • Like Shannon, I too would write that book or 5 that I have been putting off. Although, being successful for me would not be receiving praise – it would just be finishing the book and feeling good about it.

    I am not too afraid of failure because really… our perception of failure is much worse than it actually is as a lot can be learned from not succeeding the first time around. The likes of Anne Rice and Stephen King submitted their first novels to hundreds of editors only to be rejected HUNDREDS of times.

    What stops me is investing the energy, bearing my soul, and – weirdly – finishing something of importance to me? This raises one thousand and one psychological questions that I can’t even start to get into.

    But, I know this is a goal of mine – to write a book and to finish it. I don’t care who reads it or even if it receives accolades – I just want to write it and put a piece of myself out there in the world. So, I am going to take a few active steps to making this happen, such as setting aside an hour a few times a week to write (even if it is only a sentence).

    And maybe, just maybe, I will reach this goal!

    • Amber,

      I love what you said: “[O]ur perception of failure is much worse than it actually is as a lot can be learned from not succeeding the first time around.”

      This is so true. Once we really think through the worst-case scenario and imagine ourselves living through it, we often realize it’s not so bad. If we can accept it as “not terrible” it takes a lot of the sting out of the fear.

      I’m glad to see that you’re taking steps to make this happen. I know I am. I’ll be publicly committing to some things on this site in another week or two and then I’ll be stuck. 🙂

      I KNOW you will reach this goal and I KNOW it will be awesome!

      Let me know if I can help with anything. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Travis

  • How do you quantify/qualify success?

    • Great question! I think it depends on what you’re measuring. But let’s (for the sake of this post) use this:

      Success is nothing more or less than *your* desired outcome for a course of action.

      In my personal example, I want a lot of people to read and be changed by my book. I won’t release the numbers that I have as my target, but suffice it to say that I have a number in my head.

      For Amber, success may be nothing more than finishing the work itself and gaining a bit of confidence in her ability to complete a huge undertaking. (This may not be accurate, by the way. It’s just an example of what *she* could use as a measure.)

      Success is personal to the individual and the task so I think my definition will work on this.

      What do you think?

      • Right. Well, I understand the working definition, and it probably works quite well for the sake of discussion. However, in my opinion, the logic is flawed. Success can’t be subjective.

        Again, I understand that the point of the discussion is intended, at least in part, to encourage people to have more confidence in themselves and realize their dreams (which is something that a lot of people need), but what I’m finding is that such a line of thinking (i.e. pursuing our own dreams of what we want life to look like) is both tragically flawed and unrealistic.

        I’m not trying to be a cynic (because I believe in healthy dreaming), but it just seems more plausible for us to think of our lives as stories than as a list of goals.

        I totally get the point of the discussion and respect, so please pardon any unintended cynicism that I may be conveying. This is a personal issue for me, as I’m a very goal-oriented person. It’s quite easy for me to think about my life and what I want to happen in it, but the hard lesson I’m learning is this: my life isn’t just about me and what I want. Moreover, what I want doesn’t always happen, nor should it.

        If life is a story, and I a character in it, then what I WANT to happen won’t always happen, and that will be a good thing. I’m not saying that it’s bad to want things, but it’s flawed logic to consider “success” the acquisition of all things that we desire.

        A working definition of success for me personally (in this season of life) would be this: The unfolding of events that cause my character to grow in such a way that I have a better grasp of the overall story.

        • “Tragically flawed”? 😉

          Let me try to address this because I think it’s important.

          God created us to have desires and dreams. We are to have visions for our lives, set goals and work to attain them – all while holding them loosely and realizing that God may redirect us into something different. (Proverbs 16:9, 20:18, 21:5, Romans 1:13, and many more.)

          Both the question I asked and the definition I gave were actually different than your paraphrases and I think it makes a difference when you think about it.

          The question: What would you do in your life if you were absolutely confident that you would succeed?

          The definition of success for this post: Success is nothing more or less than *your* desired outcome for a course of action.

          Why is this important?

          If we are expected by God to make plans, set goals, and then work towards them, it would be unwise of us not to have some working definition of success. However, that definition is relative to the person acting, the work being done, and the outcome we’re trying to attain (starting a new church, for example).

          Will we hit every single thing we set out to do? No. Will we sometimes fail? Definitely. Does that negate or invalidate the exercise? Absolutely not. However, I can’t define success for anyone but myself and I set those measurements through prayer, wise counsel, and experience.

          We often let fear of failure prevent us from doing what we know deep down that we were put on this earth to do. This question is meant to cause us to look at what we may not be doing simply because success isn’t guaranteed.

          I agree that we are a part of a story much larger than ourselves. But that doesn’t negate the setting of goals. Stories are a series of events told in a chronological order. We are the protagonists in our own stories and we’re players in the stories of others. Our lives are inextricably interwoven and we are not intended to live our lives only for ourselves or as a series of checklists that are ticked off as we proceed from point A to point B.

          In reality, we are all participants in the writing of our stories. We can either choose to be active in the writing of our unique story or choose to be passive and let it be written for us. God created us to be active. We do that by setting goals and working to achieve them.

          By actively participating in the writing of my own story, I am actually living not just for myself but for others since so much of the story I am trying to write (with God’s help, of course) has impact far beyond my life. It’s not about getting more stuff or simply doing more stuff. I’ve been there, done that and have no interest in living life that way again.

          You gave the definition of success as “The unfolding of events that causes my character to grow in such a way that I have a better grasp of the overall story.”

          Perhaps I’m not understanding, but your definition makes it sound as if you have no choice in the matter of success. You can actively do things to create events (not just let them unfold), grow your character, and better understand the story. If all that ever happens is the growth of your character and your understanding, is that really success? What about your impact on the lives of others? You wrote that your “life isn’t just about me and what I want.” But your definition only seems focused on you and what you get.

          When I set a goal to do something and then define success by the number of lives impacted, it fits well within my definition. My desired outcome for the course of action is changed lives. It’s not even really about me. By your definition, that goal wouldn’t seem to fit well. Why? Because I worked toward unfolding events, it wasn’t necessarily about my character growth (though that may be a byproduct), and I may have no better understanding of the overall story when it’s done. Would it then be a failed endeavor?

          Again, perhaps I’m not understanding something correctly.

          By the way, I didn’t take offense to your comments at all. I appreciate the challenge. Iron sharpens iron. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. 🙂

          Cheers,
          Travis

        • Chris J

          I started to agree with you, Jeff, that success can’t be based upon achieving something that we want or a goal that we set. I mean, what happens when we miss that goal, or the desired result doesn’t come about? Are we really expected to live life on a psychological and emotional roller coaster, on edge as to whether we’ll find glory or defeat??

          Then I realized that avoiding that nasty ride is not about redefining success as something generic and without specific goals to meet, but rather redefining FAILURE and how you handle it.

          I totally understand your philosophy of life not being all about us, what we want and desire and pursue, and I would agree with your point reasoning…if failure was unacceptable, unhelpful, and unredeemable.

          Googling “define success” brings up a nice definition: “an event that accomplishes its intended purpose…” Similarly, “define succeed” gives us: “attain success or reach a desired goal…”

          Let’s say I decide to run a marathon. I also decide to place a goal on this marathon that if achieved, will be called “success”. Just as dark is to light or cold is to heat, not achieving this goal is then by definition, “failure”.

          I can choose a goal of running this particular marathon in under 3.5 hrs (yes, I googled the average run time to appear somewhat knowledgeable). If it takes me 3 hrs, I’ve achieved success; if it takes me 4 hrs, I’ve failed. I could also choose that JUST FINISHING the race would be success for me. It has thus become subjective to my circumstances, abilities, desires, choices…

          I would have a great fear of making goals like that, though, if failure = defeat, humiliation, lack of anything good. However, to truly round out the goal-making process and not be lopsided, when I define what “success” is going to look like in this instance, I need to also decide what my RESPONSE to “failure” will be.

          Often we make goals and to some degree take on that old Apollo 13 quote, “Failure Is Not An Option”. However, failure IS an option. And it often happens.

          So when it hits you to detach complete negativity from the word FAILURE and stop seeing it as a complete black hole devoid of anything good, you’ll realize that not accomplishing your intended purpose is indeed CALLED failure but that it is handleable and even progress.

          Then when failure does happen, and you see what you’ve learned through the experience, when you understand how you can approach the next goal with a different tactic, when you realize that you were blessed to be given the opportunity to TRY, you’ll see failure as ok.

          Therefore, I have to agree with Travis’ definition. Success is totally subjective to “…*your* desired outcome for a course of action”. What makes it palatable, inviting, and right is having a healthy and balanced understanding of its misunderstood younger sibling: FAILURE.

  • (That’s not meant to be rhetorical, by the way.)

  • Travis, Good thought provoking post. What I would do if I knew for sure I would succeed?

    (and I am not trying to be funny. am damn serious)

    I would get lottery tickets, go on game shows… basically get in on every contest, lucky draws, etc… When I am sure I will succeed no matter what… why not!

    And when I win the million bucks, when i get Bentley on display at the mall, when I win the Apple TV sponsored by Kit….i will settled down, write ebooks and books, and do all the things i wanted to do… with minimal effort.

    🙂 ok my confidence is wearing off and i am not feeling lucky anymore… time to sign off from this post.

    • Haha! I do have one question for you, though.

      You wrote, “I will settle down, write ebooks and books, and do all the things i wanted to do… with minimal effort.”

      Apart from the lottery section, why couldn’t you do this stuff now?

  • Great question Travis! If I were guaranteed success, there’s really nothing I wouldn’t do! I would stop coming up with “reasons” for not getting things completed like my training programs. Though I have to say I’m much better at taking action now than i was in the past. 😉

    Great site you have here. I’m glad we connected!