For years, I drew courage from the question, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I even own the paperweight. When I was getting ready to speak at TED this year, I pushed that question out of my head to make room for a new question: “What’s worth doing even if you fail?” ~ Brene Brown
I lay awake staring at the ceiling as anxiety sat like a weight on my chest.
I’d just started a new career, money was tight and doubt was having a field day inside my brain as it often does in the wee hours.
Suddenly I sat up and made a vow to myself that I would pursue my goal no matter what. It was a balls to the wall, no going back kind of moment, my way of putting all those niggling doubts to rest for good.
When you go through any kind of career transition, success is not a given. There will be days when you will feel unstoppable and others when you feel like a complete amateur. The same is true of anything you do in life (I am thinking of parenting as I write this).
So there’s little point in asking: What if this doesn’t work out? You might as well give up right now.
A better question to ask is: Are you willing to devote yourself to the work and keep showing up even when it feels hard? On days when there are no accolades, no wins, no one to reassure you: You’re doing a great job, keep going!
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, she tells the story of how she took vows to be a writer when she was only sixteen.
“I retreated to my bedroom one night and turned off all the lights. I lit a candle, got down on my honest to God knees and swore my fidelity to writing for the rest of my natural life.”
What struck me about Elizabeth’s story was that she didn’t promise to be a great or successful writer. She didn’t even ask writing to take care of her financially.
She simply vowed that she would write forever regardless of the outcome.
Elizabeth was 16. I was 43. Some people are in their seventies and beyond when they are inspired to devote their lives to a purpose. It’s not transactional. It’s showing up and doing the work no matter what. That’s devotion.
What’s worth doing even if you fail?