Years ago I made a foolish purchase. It sure wasn’t my first and it wasn’t (and won’t be) my last.
This particular foolish purchase is a silvery looking ingot, heavy with some base metal, engraved with the words, “What could you do if you knew you could not fail?”
It is meant , of course, to be inspirational and I bought it to inspire me and to prop on my desk. It has been modestly useful as a paperweight … but it has never been a bit of use as an inspiration.
What could I do if I knew I could not fail? Well, I could do anything I had done competently before with the assurance that prior experience would likely guarantee me success. I could do things I knew everything about, with no unknowns to contend with. This would ensure I could go through life feeling successful, ensure that I never experienced failure.
The only problem with this? This way of living would ensure nothing so much as a very small life that could only grow smaller. What could I do if I knew I could not fail? … not very much really. I could do precious little, instead of doing so many of the things that have been extremely precious to me .
If I did only I knew I could not fail at, I wouldn’t have begun writing this blog. I wouldn’t have auditioned for theater roles that were outside my comfort zone. I wouldn’t have gone on an international bike trip just months after an ankle was put back together with plates and pins. I wouldn’t have taken on countless new projects. I wouldn’t have married. I wouldn’t have tried a hundred new things in the raising of our daughter.
And right this moment I wouldn’t be busily gathering materials for my application to culinary school to begin the journey toward becoming a professional chef.
It is not so much that I am brave by inclination, we have established this, I am not .But I do know this- the real risk is that if I don’t stretch myself, knowing full well that failure is always a possibility, I will not have fully lived my life.
How many times have I said in this blog after taking a leap, “I needn’t have worried”? I want to place my energy in the leap, not in concern for the safety net. Everyone has their own ways to grow and I believe this is mine.
So I will apply to school . If I am accepted, I will be in a setting where I will once again have to study for midterms and finals, work long days on my feet and I will be classmates with students many of whom will be less than half my age. I will be stretching creative wings in a way brand new to me. It is intimidating and it is very exciting.
In my Mom’s last year she lost the desire to eat and I, concerned, got her to drink a supplement with the brand name Ensure. My Mom always referred to it as Endure. I always thought she just had gotten it wrong, now I’m not so sure. More and more it seems to me that a life lived with the main emphasis on “ensure” quickly becomes instead one that is merely endured.
I took a Sharpie (the purchase of a Sharpie is never foolish 🙂 ) and I crossed out one word and added a few more to my not very inspirational paperweight.This is how it now reads : “What could you do if you knew you could fail …but you went ahead and did it anyway…”
I think my paperweight just became truly useful .