What Would You Do if You Knew You Would Not Fail?


I like thinking about hypothetical questions, and this one is a good start. Most of us have some kind of dream trapped within us that has somehow become stifled by the fear of failure.

So, yes, it’s good to think about this question and bring your answer to the surface.

The problem, though, is that most things that are worth doing involve a real possibility of failure. Marriages fail, other relationships falter, businesses close their doors all the time. A big goal, like the ones we looked at recently, always involves a certain degree of risk.

How to Think About Your Life

On book tour I’ve been having hundreds of conversations about this subject with people from all walks of life. Figuring out what you want to do with your life is a hot topic, as is the fear of failure.

If you’re new to this kind of thinking, it helps to ask yourself these simple questions:

What excites you? Why do you get up in the morning? If time and money were no object and you had no pressing responsibilities, how would you like to spend your days?

What bothers you? What problem would you like to fix? There are all kinds of problems in the world… which one(s) are you most troubled by?

You can also try to remember if there was something you wanted to do as a kid, but then turned away from because it was discouraged by someone. Therein lies the source of all kinds of dreams that lost their way as you transitioned to something more “responsible”—and if you read AONC, you probably know that the pursuit of a big dream isn’t something you need to justify to others.

Back to Failure

Instead of thinking about what you would do if you knew you wouldn’t fail, maybe a better question is… What’s truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed?

How would you answer that? You can share your answer here or you can keep it to yourself, but mostly I hope you do something about it.


Image: Whatknot

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  • Eduard says:

    Oh man, I love that question! My second favorite one after: What would you do with your life if pleasing others was not an issue? (hey, I’m into people skills).

    First time I’ve asked myself that (your question I mean), it helped me realize I wanted to start my own business. That was about 4 years ago, and 3 years ago I did start it.

  • Cara says:

    I’m still kind of wandering through life trying to figure out the answer to this question. Right now it seems to be writing, so I’m throwing myself at that until/unless it seems to be something else later. Meanwhile, it’s great to be thinking about it and seeking an answer–it makes me feel so alive.

    I saw you in Franklin last night, and I just wanted to say thanks for adding it to your tour, and thanks for inspiring us all!

  • Paz says:

    I think questions like this should be constantly asked of oneself. Ideally, the answer changes over time as one grows and gains wisdom. Right now, for me that answer is easy. I want to read books and travel the world. Sounds simple but I’ve got to figure out how to finance said activities. I’m working on it though; got a few ideas. I hope to be able to add a website URL to my posts in the future!

  • Bradley says:

    “What’s truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed?”

    Start my own business – it is in progress. Trying to find new clients/work everyday. At the moment, I am working a J-O-B and doing my thing on the side. Trying to get up the courage to quit said J-O-B.

    Get married again – also in progress. Happening Saturday!

  • Caitlin says:

    You know, I have thought about this question a lot. However, in my case sometimes I don’t think its always the right question to ask. I think there are limits placed on us, but that isn’t always a bad thing. For example, my first response to this questions is that I would marry my boyfriend. However, he has to go through a process with our Church (because of a previous marriage) so that he is free to marry. I don’t resent that process because its important…so in reality, I’m glad to be doing what I’m doing –waiting, even if it is difficult.

    I think the same can sometimes be said of a boring job. Perhaps you would like to go travel the world, but if you have to provide for your family – who depend on you, then that is a good limit and sacrifice is important, even if the every day seems boring.

    It is not always fear that keeps us back.

    So, just a different kind of thought on the question.

  • Sandy Mejia says:

    Totally loved it!

    I have been working in living my dream, pursuing my goal and the life I want to live.
    I still failing, still looking, still fighting, still crying..and most of all, I still BELIEVE on it!!

    Thanks Chris for being the “invisible” coach to all of us, telling us and remind us to keep going, to not give up.


  • Jan Avellana says:

    This is so right on! a much needed reminder that i am on the right track. doing what i’m doing, doing the best that i can, pouring myself into making art as my livelihood regardless of the success or failure. i have never been more ‘myself’ as i have these last few years, although the sacrifices have been great. i am one of those people who can’t wait to get up in the morning! i never thought i would find ‘it’ or that ‘it’ even existed for me, but it does, oh it does. i am an artist, day job or not, sales or no, success and recognition or failure and obscurity. how awesome is that?

  • Amelia says:

    I would open a bakery and cafe. I know right now in the town I am in it would fail, but someday.

  • Heather says:

    Write the Great American Novel!

  • sonia says:

    I would – and most probably will – play again the guitar, which I used to do from 10 to 24 years old. I stopped when, after married I played to my husband (now my ex, fortunately!) and he pretended there was nobody in the room: simply ignored it!

  • Summer says:

    I love this questions! I’m so glad I found your Web site because I have definitely been going through a lot in my mind about finally pursuing my dreams and passions. If I didn’t have to worry about failure, I would definitely be a full time writer, most likely following bands and writing about that. I would also start my own business to do some sort of management of bands and help them with promotions. I’ve started blogging, but I’m still so worried about failing. I want to move to NYC and absorb everything that city has to offer, but sometimes I think it is easier to stay here and just be “safe”. I’m hoping that it’ll happen soon!

  • Michelle says:

    I think it is important to open up the dialogue about how the ‘struggle’ to achieve our goals becomes the very fabric of our own personal story. I owned and operated Canada’s largest women’s cycling community the Fly Gurlz for 12 years. It was my passion and all I could think about at the time. Then a fundamental shift took place within myself and I knew the time had come to shut the business down – EVEN THOUGH it was still financially doing well. I guess it came down to authenticity and emotion – this is what made the program so successful – it came from a place deep within all of our hearts and like many things…I had fallen out of love. So really if I had continued I would have failed because I would no longer have given from my soul the way that I needed/wanted to.

    Now I am back to square one – building a whole new business and it’s so hard and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We have to remain dreamers and attempt to be all that we can be. The only failure is when we don’t try!

  • Christopher says:

    What excites me? Seeing others regain their fitness or rid of pain after having lost hope…Listening to music…Playing guitar…Spending time with people I love.

    What bothers me? The population’s lack of health and fitness…further exacerbated by the medical paradigm America’s stuck in.

    What’s truly worth doing, whether I fail or succeed? Getting people healthy by giving hope and truth, because health inevitably leads to happiness. Happiness is contagious. And sharing time with all of you lovely bastards.

  • Judith Tramayne says:

    Actually, I’m doing what I want to do. The thought of failure has never bothered me. Then on the other hand, fear of success does.

    I have no pressures other than what I put on myself to make products, learn new things, etc. Would this change if I became a seven figure a year success?

    Ah now that is the unknown. I’m comfortable with who I am, would the other Judith that tastes success be different?

    Or are my core values so strong now, it really wouldn’t matter?

    Only time will tell.

  • Demond Thompson says:

    Interesting question. I have answered it and I’m working toward being able to do it. I would weight train every day, twice if able, and figure out a way to make money doing it. Personal training is out because I have to train others and you can’t take care of someone else and yourself at the same time. Thank you for bringing this to my attention once again.

    Now, off to figure out how to get paid to train.

  • Michelle Russell says:

    Chris, funny that you published this today, because I have JUST had an epiphany (like, 2 days ago) that the common thread running through my disparate interests is the concept of Enoughness. Our wants are so conditioned by the mass media and other social institutions, we no longer have much ability to figure out for ourselves what our true needs are.

    The answers to “What is enough of ___?” will be different for everyone–and that’s as it should be. We’re all so unique. But we can learn the process of figuring this out.

    Oh, and I’m not (necessarily) talking about minimalism here. It’s likely that there are areas in your life where you need more of something to have enough of it!

    I will absolutely be blogging about this. And I think…I think…okay, I’m going public with this.

    (deep breath)

    I am an Enoughness Coach. :o)

  • Arvind Devalia says:

    I would travel the world and become a peace activist, giving talks in every place I visited.

    Great question, Chris!

  • Susan Cosgrove says:

    I think the answer to this question is “What do I want to be doing in one year?” and “Where do I want to be in five years?”

  • Crystal Neubauer says:

    I’m in the process of doing it – only as a result of quitting my secure job as a project manager without a plan, or money, or much left in the way of sanity (the people pleasing thing from the first comment) – but now after several years of seizing the opportunity to become who I know I was meant to be, the artist I dreamed of being as a child, the doors are opening and I’m starting to live the life. Scary and awesome!

  • sonia says:

    I forgot to tell you that I am 64 🙂

  • Rob Griggs says:

    Nice post Chris! This question is one of the most important that any of us can as ourselves.

    For me it is to help and inspire people, like you do.

    I quite often think what I would do if I won the lottery and can honestly sat that apart from buying myself and my family a few luxuries, I would put that money to good use in order to help others. What better way is there to enjoy life?

  • Vince says:

    What would you do if you knew you can’t fail?

    It certainly is an interesting question, but at the same time life would be quite boring if we couldn’t fail. Where would all the fun be? I do somethings just because I am afraid to fail. When I am afraid of failing, it pushes me harder not to fail. I can be exciting to know that you might fail…or… you might not.

    I tend to err on the side of might not.

  • Annie Binns says:

    I want to take shelter cats to cancer wards.

    Really. There are so many people who need something soft and there are so many soft things that need a person – even for an hour at a time. I want to be the cat lady of the cancer wards.

    Not the crazy cat lady, mind you.

    How could I fail at this? Oh, the myriad of ways I can come up with…

  • Deborah Hyatt says:

    Great thought-starter, Chris. My immediate answer was, “I’d write a novel,” because that’s sort of my scary/sacred place as a writer. But, like Caitlin, I’m intensely aware of external limitations and can’t just pursue a single rarefied dream.

    Lately, however, I’ve been focusing my attention on doing more “creative” writing in addition to the work that pays the bills, and finding ways to balance those two aims. Is there a novel in my future? Maybe. In the meantime, I find myself increasingly comforted, and mentally freed, by focusing more on planning and making incremental changes. Some adventures take time to unfold.

    There is great value, I think, in a slow hard climb — especially since a sudden leap to the top of the mountain might not really be the point. Perhaps it’s not writing a novel that appeals to me as much as creating the financial and mental freedom I need to pursue my dreams, however they evolve, wholeheartedly.

  • marianney says:

    awesome question! and the day after just getting back from mexico and looking into businesses to buy and get the hell out of here before winter starts is what i would do! i guess the only thing that holds me back personally is my enormous amount of debt. nothing else. so i have to make sure i make a certain amount of money living my dream so that i can continue to pay those debts. 🙁

    but now that is my next question to answer! how can i pay those off quicker so that i can get on with my dream?

  • Pam says:

    There are many, many things I would do – some I have already started, some are “in the works” as I type, and some that still scare me! I did freelance photography off/on for nearly 20 years, but because my husband is military, I was constantly uprooting my business to follow his career. I got tired of having to start over, so I quit nine years ago. I decided a few months ago, against all odds and everyone’s advice, to start again. It is finally taking flight.

    Another thing I have always wanted to do is write. Thanks to your website, I have a small cache awaiting a home which I will launch prior to year’s end.

    Finally – this is the one that scares me – I hope to re-learn piano again. I lost the ability when I had a brain injury 7 years ago. Part of me simply doesn’t want to “regress” to beginner, but part of me is afraid I can’t re-learn (some things never returned completely). I still miss it terribly every single day. I think the time has come.

  • Angie says:

    I came to a point in my life where I had freedom to make changes. I told myself I could do anything I wanted (based on my ability to support myself)anywhere I wanted! That made the world a little too big for me, so I decided my first move would be where I had one good friend. I moved from Wyoming to Oregon! My family was pretty disturbed. What if I don’t like it? My response – “Then I will come back”. I have never – not for one minute – regretted my decision. Two tips that will make your dreams possible: first – stay debt free or live within your means; second – be open to new ideas. Good luck!

  • Betty says:

    I’d love to produce concerts!!! I know I can’t sing, that’s for sure, but I can enjoy the backstage, the energy of the artist and the crazyness of the fans. I would give every song a special place. That would be my perfect job/hobbie.

  • Nathan says:

    I’m doing it baby! I love it too 🙂

  • loulou says:

    i’ve taken some steps towards one of my “big dream” goals- to live off my own business, starting with my blog- but there are others that still seem crazy and impossible (become a pilates instructor after years of living with disability and serious health issues)

    i think how amazing this would be to undertake as a journey, and look back to where i am now from wherever i end up, and go WOW.

    reallly, what’s the worst that could happen?

  • Irene says:

    What I wanted as a teenager was to be an airline stewardess and travel. Travelling abroad, was the dream that was discouraged and lost its way untill I read your post. It brought forth a big stream of tears.

    The answer to what’s truly worth doing whether I fail or not surprised me. A poem emerged as I wrote, telling me to spread my wings and fly, to become a traveller and speak my spread the message of love.

    What bothers me is the pain and suffering caused by man’s inhumanity to others, and to the planet

  • Steve Kercher says:

    We’re developing and booking the YEAHouse tour featuring a showcase of some of the best young soloists and bands in the country, along with master-classes with some of the best session players in Nashville. I lost about $20,000 trying something similar to this a few years ago. We learned from that failure and are making the concept better and more beneficial to artists and audiences. Contact me if you want to bring YEAHouse to your H.S. or college.

  • Pascal says:

    Hey Chris, your post actually come at a good moment. I’m actually in the beginning of my new adventure leaving everything behind in Canada and move to Australia with my girlfriend. We are currently in Mexico and already facing a failure getting a simple transit visa by Los-Angeles to reach Sydney. It’s quite frustrating since they refuse a simple transit visa for an absurd reason.

    I’ve been looking into flights since 2 days and the best I could found for both is still 2500-3000$ (MEX-SCL-AUK-SYD) higher that what we initially planned. I’ve been planning this trip financially but it ends up that we’re not even in Sydney yet and it’s far more expensive than what I could imagine (Gatekeepers are pricey).

    I’m doing this trip and my primary fear of failure is related to strong and unpredictable gatekeepers: Immigration.

  • Pieter Kommerij says:

    Hi Chris, Great question indeed… and as it happens: i have done it: last year… kicked the proverbial bucket, left a great job to do what i realy like: Sailing… I own a 40ft Sailing Catamaran and do Charters in a unique region in Brazil…. Will it be failure or succes? I dont know… and you what.. it doesnt realy matter.. I had to do it, i am doing it, and i am enjoying myself big time… I have all the time that i want, to do what i want to do… This doesnt have a price….
    All the best to all of you and enjoy….

  • Satya Colombo says:

    Really love this: “What’s truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed?”

    — that’s really such a great key, because it helps make failure an afterthought…

    I’m finally doing it now… never felt better, more alive, and yeah, a bit scared. No guts, no glory! 🙂

    ~Much love

  • bryan elliott says:

    This is my first comment on the blog but I’ve been a long-time fan ans subscriber. First of all, keep up the great work. On the topic of fear (of failure), I know our mutual friend Seth has said a lot on this, and I frequently get inspiration (steal) from his thoughts as well. Fear can be a great inhibitor, paralyzing, a destructive force and demoralizer. Ironically, at the same time it can give us wings, light a fire under our $@! and be the impetus to action. The difference as you point out may be in perception. The choice is ours to see opportunity “in work clothes” or see Mt. Everest.

  • daniel andrade says:

    what you would do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? from the headline, quick response, fly like off a cliff (there’s no fail)

    What’s truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed?
    that’s such a great question. I had to read other comments first so I have to add my thoughts

    I feel helping people is worth doing, digging a ditch or a better world, not for me, it’s help someone
    I have 5 daily questions that help me when I’m stuck “what am I grateful for now/what can I start now/what can I finish now/who loves me (last one makes me smile)” and I had a “what can I do to help someone now” but my wife pointed out that it was hypocritical cause I don’t help Everybody, like the guy with the flat tire (sorry guy)
    so now I ask myself everyday “What can I do to help someone buy or sell a home Now” (it’s also my J.O.B)
    It may not be the greatest focus, but for me, I feel it’s worth doing everyday

  • Adrienne says:

    Hi Chris, I like the way you think…I just wrote a post earlier this week asking the exact same question! 😉 It’s funny, it’s really easy to ask the question, but quite a bit more difficult to answer it!

    If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would quit my day job, start my own business helping to create meaningful experiences for others, travel the world collecting my own experiences so that I can learn, grow, and share them with others, and I would contribute myself and my time, not just my money, to a worthy cause, such as The Girl Effect.

    That’s exactly what I’m working on doing. 🙂 I’m sure I’ll fail plenty along the way, but I’m hoping I’ll also find the courage and support to keep going.

  • Evan says:

    Pretty much what I’m doing now. A little more fun a little less of some other things.

    If I had a lot of money I’d set up the Kill the Market Foundation (tag line: a market in necessities kill people, so – we need to Kill the Market!

  • Annie Stith says:

    I love these kinds of questions, especially since I have recently asked them (again).

    I believe there are a lot of wounded people in the world. Wounded by abuse. Wounded by ignorance. Wounded by grief of loss. Wounded, in other words, by emotional trauma of one sort or another.

    I think there’s plenty of help out there for recovery and healing of all kinds of wounds: 12-step meetings, support groups, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, self-help books.

    I’ve been learning, though, that what happened to me also is happening to others: I and they get “stuck” in the healing process. I used to think I had to somehow “fix” every single effect of my trauma before I could move on with my life. Every effect.

    That can be a neverending or impossible goal. Sometimes there’s been enough damage that what’s left are scars that can’t heal rather than wounds. Sometimes the behavior’s become so ingrained it would take a lifetime to change.

    I want to reach out to those who are “stuck” (probably even without knowing it) and help them move on, scars and imperfections and all. I want to help them see that healing doesn’t have to mean perfectly. That while they continue to work at it and work at it, life’s passing them by. I want them to hear that there’s another choice: moving on by discovering who they are now, and how they can figure out what to do with the rest of their lives without the trauma being central to it.

    So far, I’ve gotten good feedback, I’ve figured out how I want to use a website and a blog, and I’ve decided to take the approach that if I only help one person, I will not have “failed.” (But I plan to accomplish much, much more.)

  • Sue Simpson says:

    I would open an art studio for children and adults. A place for kids to come and explore, play and create. To paint green trees, purple dragons or whatever they are inspired to create. To instill self worth and encourage who they are. To teach adults and children to find their own true voice. There isn’t anything much greater than seeing the lights come on and the creativity soar. I would also teach creativity workshops local and through travel.

  • Kori Golightly says:

    Writing. Writing is something I will do whether I fail or succeed. I write poetry, nonfiction, and I blog. Every time I write, I stare at my words in uncertainty, but I also remind myself that their power is in sharing them.

    My next big goal is to use my writing as a way to help others and to help the Earth.

    Thanks for everything you do. I’ve found so much inspiration on this site, from Chris and everyone else.

  • Kate says:

    I’m already doing it…

    I’m building my website to expose the amount of cancer-causing junk that’s put into our foods, water, beauty products, baby products, etc. I know that some people will disagree, and the food industry, etc won’t like it, but I don’t care, because I know I’m doing the right thing.

    And when my website is finished, I’ll be turning to activism to campaign for change.

    I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do – my “calling, if you will – so therefore I cannot fail, unless I fail to try. Any money/credit/fame/positive feedback is a bonus only, not the yardstick by which I measure my success.

  • Trixie Rioux says:


  • WiseNinja says:

    Thanks Chris, fantastic question! I ask this whenever starting a new project, along with “what is the BIGGEST possible thing I could do with this idea” – something fun to break out of ‘realistic’ small-thought

  • Patrick McCrann says:

    How would you live if you knew failure didn’t matter? Where’s the excitement in doing something if you know for sure it’s going to work out? The thrill of the undertaking is the challenge, the climb, the wall…without those things I’d venture even the most insanely awesome activity would be…boring.

  • Carol says:

    I like to change the question a little from “What would you do if you knew you would not fail?” to “What would you do if you knew you would succeed?” It’s more positive wording and not even entertaining the thought of failure–trusting then that I will succeed.

  • Pankaj Prakash says:

    worth doing, how one can judge the worthness ? Individual differences r there. But to me whatever takes me deep in my consciousness is worth doing no matter how society takes it. “Its better to be a good and satisfied cobbler than a dissatisfied and bad engineer”

  • Gary Wilson says:

    hypotheticals are a great way to sharpen our thinking. Some people disagree with them, but this can quickly be overcome with this example. If you had to choose between running out of your house that is on fire with a pencil or with your wheelchair bound mother and you really only have time for one choice, what would you choose. When people are faced with that kind of hypothetical choice it is easy.

    Extending the hypothetical to this excellent question makes for great thinking. Thanks Chris. I like to use questions like yours to brainstorm. I have found that the more choices I make based on hypotheticals like this one, the stronger I become for the next set of choices I make.

  • Chris says:

    If I knew I would not fail, I would help others turn their creativity into income. I’m hesitant to help people on this question because of the next question…

    Is there a market for that?

    The reality is that the most creative people have no market for their craft because it is usually ahead of its time.

    It’s kind of like Henry Ford saying, “If I would have given the people what they thought they wanted, I would have given them faster horses.”

    Truly creative people have to deliver to FUTURE markets. Challenging.

  • Kristina Villarini says:

    Failure is a word, like any other. If we could really see it like that, I think this question would be irrelevant. I guess that’s the answer for me: I want to help create a world where questions like this one aren’t real.

  • KG says:

    I would tell someone that I love, how I really feel. I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

  • Karina says:

    That’s a good one!

    Since I read the “World Domination” I’ve been thinking about the road my life is taking and how I feel about that. My personal life is the main responsible for my happiness. Sometimes I see myself thinking “Could it be any better?” and then I look into my professional life and think: “I believe I could do better” and the reason why I don’t, is the exact question that confronts with yours: “What if I fail?” and also: “Is it too late?”. It is hard to change and to face that what you ever wanted in your life when you were a child maybe is not exactly what is gonna make you feel complete.

    As you can see… I still have a lot to learn.

  • Jonny Gibaud says:

    Dude, I am jealous of your book tour. There, I said it.

  • Sharon Huff says:

    Great question Chris, and I loved reading all the caring comments.

    My passion is litter prevention. I’m working on that with the creation of the Museum of Litter. I try to bring awareness of the vast quantities of litter by blogging about it and showing photos or art made from picked up litter. I’ve just sold my business, my J-O-B, so I can begin working on litter-prevention FT.

    Litter is not the most important problem in the world but I do think it is important. It shows the disregard we have for each other, innocent creatures and the environment. There is NO excuse for litter. It’s one problem we can easily solve.

    There is NO failure possible with this mission. Even if I pick up a single plastic bottle cap or milk jug ring, it’s a huge success for the fish or bird that didn’t eat it and die.

    Thanks for asking these thought-provoking, inspiring, questions and providing a forum for all the wonderful answers.

  • Roberta says:

    Throwing myself 100% into my profession of nursing. It is a worthy profession even though I am not self-employed. I know I can do good every day. It calls for me to study to keep up with changes, to focus on my patients, their families and my colleagues and to appreciate how I am paid to help people.

  • Julia says:

    Awesome question.

    I realized I live my life in fear. Fear of failure, of success, of being alone, whatever. Fear is behind almost every decision I make, whether I am aware of it or not. So now I’m trying to change that.

    Writing has been the one thing I have wanted to do since I was a kid. When I attended college, I listened to family who said to get the “practical” degree. I reached 30 recently with a degree in nothing, so I decided I was going to go back to school for me. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I will graduate with an English/ Business degree and then attend IU Bloomington for an MFA in Creative Writing. It’s a long road, but I know I’ll get there one day. As Tegan and Sara say, “Mark my words, I might be something someday.”

    Love the newsletters and site, by the way. Thanks for all the motivation!


  • Terry says:

    I’d definitely continue doing what I’m doing, which is to co-edit a site for site for single women who enjoy life whether or not they have a boyfriend. I’d also write and publish a critically-acclaimed, bestselling novel!

    So far I’ve written it; just haven’t found an agent yet. 😉

    Wish me luck, will you?

  • AM Howe says:

    If I couldn’t fail I would do what I’ve just started working on- because failure is all in relation to ego- and my work is all about letting go of the ego and its sticky grip. We tell ourselves a story about life and quickly identify and define ourselves by that story.

    My goal is to help people find their way out of the tangle through meditation and serving our communities. We can’t fail if we aren’t stuck on an outcome – so it’s great to know your passion and put it to use in the world but stay out of your own way by limiting expectations – you never know what your good works will do behind the scenes- in the places and people you can’t see!

  • Kate Hutchinson says:

    If I knew I couldn’t fail, if I knew I had the resources, I’d run for office, like state rep or state senator. I’d run as an independent, and not be beholden to any special interest group and tell people who simply tow the party line to shut up and think for themselves.

  • wilson says:

    Those are great questions. I’ve been thinking about those now for a couple of years.
    For me what’s truly worth doing I still haven’t done. I really wish to be able to travel back to my home country to live with my parents and start a business that changes lives. That’s something that I would get up every morning with no problem.

  • Kristen Sloan says:

    What’s truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed and what would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail are two completely different questions to me.
    For the first one, writing is definitely something that is worth doing for me no matter if I fail or succeed. It’s a great release for me, along with a processing mechanism. So whether I have two fans or two hundred doesn’t matter to me.
    What would I do if I knew I would not fail? That’s a tough one for me. I like to think I go for the things I want in life, but sometimes I am not sure what I want. But, if I wouldn’t fail, I think I would be a Div. I Women’s College Basketball coach! I love basketball and it would be great to coach college students and travel!

  • Jon Mertz says:

    You are right in that hypothetical questions make you dig deeper and think about how you would really want to do things. Getting to the next step in real life is always the most challenging, but the key is taking the step to a more meaningful life. Great post!

  • rob white says:

    I’d be doing exactly what I am doing now (helping folks awaken to the truth about their ‘unlimitedness’.) The difference is I don’t want folks to wait until they are as old as I was to wake up to their superlatively creative nature… Expressing ourselves in new and exciting ways is ALWAYS worth doing.

  • Christine says:

    If I couldn’t fail, I would be a ballerina, its one of the only major things I’ve ever wanted and the passion still burns me inside and and out.
    Besides that I want to travel the world and see everythig I’ve dreamed of seeing then document it through the lenses of a camera. (still trying to figure out how to finance this part)

    Worth working for for me: becoming a photographer for national geographic and one day opening a book store/library with books from all around teh world in dozens of languages.

  • Jenny says:

    What is truly worth doing if I failed or succeeded? Selling everything I own to travel the world. That’s what! I’ve already purged about half of my belongings and I have another 6-weeks to rid myself of the remaining half. After that, I’m off on the most epic roadtrips of all time to see the skate parks the USA has to offer… and then maybe South East Asia, France, or Central America… who knows? Check out my blog if you want to read about my adventures.

  • Miles Moyers says:

    Making a living pulled me away from what I imagined when I was wide eyed and ready to experience one adventure after. The more I read, the more things I wanted to experience. I ended up going to school, getting a good job and waving to all my neighbors at 4:30am as we started our 60 mile commute.

    20 years later I’ve gone back, in my minds eye remembering all the things I wanted as a creative, eager kid. One by one, I’ve begun to do them. I even looked up my old Tom Brown survival books and went on a survival trip in the High Sierras, I loved it! Everyone believing I was nuts asked, “Why are you doing this?” All I would say was, “Because I have always wanted to”.

    Take a few quiet moments, go back to the time when you actually day dreamed about growing up, the things you wanted to experience. It may take several days, you may be at a stop light, putting away the groceries or taking a shower but it will come to you. Do it! What’s the worst that can happen?

    Thanks Chris!

  • Henry says:

    What would I do if I knew I would not fail? Very tough question for me as Failure is all I ever see even though I have accomplished quite alot in my life, graduating college, managing my own business. There are so many different things I want to do that I am still searching. Just want to be able to make my parents proud and take care of them because they take care of so many of my family members. My interests and passions are way too broad, random and abstract that it would take me years to even be able to answer questions like this. Just want to be the one that keeps fighting no matter what.

  • Gareth says:

    Good to read that so many people are already doing ‘it’. I have done it this year. I quit my job and traveled for several months, and am now in a new city on the other side of the world trying to earn money again. My behaviour here is surprising me (in a good way, but also a continually scary way), and it comes down to taking the leap and venturing into the unknown. I am more passionate now than I have ever been – but I am still searching for the next ‘it!’ It is amazing how things just seem to work out if you go for it. And it’s not always easy, but when I look back to where I’ve come from it’s phenomenal that things are working out as well as they are. Go crazy!!

  • misha says:

    I’d find a way of helping people unleash their creativity. There are so many talented creative people out there who don’t believe in themselves or their ability. (Like me at times.) Together we could love and support each other and show the world that to be an artist you don’t have to make money doing your art whatever it is, you just have to do it.

    Love and hugs,

    PS good luck Terry with finding an agent. If there is any way we can help each other achieve our goals let me know.

  • Jim says:

    I like the 2nd version of the question better: What’s truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed?

    For me, helping people live happy lives is what’s worth doing. At the moment, I work for ‘the man’ and I see the damaging effects a corporate environment can have on a person’s spirit. When it’s 8:02am on Monday, and the elevator conversations are all about “I can’t wait for Friday”, something is terribly wrong! Intelligent, thoughtful, and capable people waste away because they feel the ‘have to’ due to financial, familial, and/or social obligations.

    My success/failure will come as I work towards becoming a Licensed Psychologist. As a mental health provider I will help my clients identify, work with, and overcome obstacles that hinder them from pursing their dreams.

    As a side note – the AONC book really made me question my choice to pursue additional education….I’m very happy I read the book and had the chance to grapple with these thoughts!

  • Delores says:

    I’m still working on unburying my passion. I tend to go off in many directions and currently my goal is to be an expert at something. I have never focused on one thing so I always feel semi-competent but never like I can really do something well. But I’m still trying to figure out what IT is.

    One thing it is not is writing a novel. However, for those of you who would like to write a novel, there is a thing called NaNoWriMo which is a group of people who challenge themselves to write a novel during the month of November. I have friends who think it is a great way to get going.

  • Ren says:

    This question takes goal setting to a new level. We sometimes think we’re working towards our ultimate goal, but instead it’s just top of our ‘achievable’ list. Dreaming big and accepting the possibility of failure is a constant challenge.

  • Giancarlo says:

    Hmm…I think I would work with pastors (or anyone, really) to make their public speaking more focused and (gasp) exciting

  • Rich Wojtczak says:

    7 years ago I started on the journey I’m still on to do something about the incredible carnage on our roads that we Americans accept without question. If we lost 30,000 citizens to any other issue other than disease, we would be up in arms. Incredibly, we shrug our shoulders and ignore this toll.

    We lose far more teens to road fatalities than we lose in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

    It’s all about better preparation for the responsibilities of driving and that is what I am both passionate about and committed to.

  • Sergio L. Romero-Scott says:

    My relationship with my partner is one thing I am doing regardless it I fail or succeed. Obviously, I strive to make my actions and mind set conducive for a successful union.

    At times I focus too much on the negative, when in reality there is very little negative naturally presented in my life by my relationship. I allow my fear of being hurt by my relationship to stop me from truly living in the moment. For, the “now” is all one really has.

    Being that I am able to realize that my fear is the cause of my stress. I can then begin to release the fear and truly enjoy my Guber’s role in my life. Here is to many more laughs, smiles and tears, it’s a great life, enjoy the NOW!

  • Mary Jo says:

    I love that! I have it framed and hanging in my classroom. It is sad how many students already are afraid of trying something they may not be immediately successful doing.

  • Ken Apple says:

    The funny thing is, as I look back at my life from past the midpoint, most of the dreams I had as a young man I have made come true. If there was an error, it was in not dreaming big enough.

  • Tara C says:

    I have tried and failed 3 times so far to move to France… this is my big dream and I am not letting go of it. Some day I will really make it! In the mean time I am working hard to save up so much money that I cannot fail again!

  • Jennifer Moore says:

    I would do two things. I’d somehow find a way to tie them together:

    1. I’d open a combination art space/vegan cafe/deli/coffee house. It’d be said cafe, but there would be rooms in the back or upstairs, say, that people could rent and use as studio or meeting space. There’d be an area to share/trade/donate/take supplies. The money would come in from the food and rental of the spaces. It would be a real bohemian haven.

    2. I’d start an organization that works like an animal rescue, BUT the main goal would be to keep people who are ordered into drug/alcohol/eating disorder rehab from losing their pets. I got a taste of this a few years back when I managed to keep a coworker at my part time job from losing his dogs. He was ordered suddenly into rehab by the courts. At the time, his dogs were living at the kennel where we worked together. Someone tipped me off that the owner of the kennel needed the space and something had to be done about the dogs. (continued below)

  • Jennifer Moore says:

    (sorry so long!)

    I called my coworker at rehab, told him what was up, and asked him who I could call for him. Long story short, I managed to convince his brother to take the dogs in temprorarily. The guy called me in tears to thank me for saving his dogs. BEST. FEELING. EVER. I want to do more of that.

    Even people with a lot of issues truly love and value their pets.

    So the way I’d tie the two in would be that I’d use a portion of the cafe proceeds to fund the rescue organization.

  • Sally says:

    Love that question! I would move to Umbria with my family, settle into a stone farmhouse with a stream and land- with the chickens and goats, speak Italian, paint pictures of the countryside and Rocca Maggiore and write bestselling novels that become blockbuster movies.

  • Christina Crowe says:

    Wow, short but powerful post. “What excites you?” – Without a doubt, writing (any form, but mainly fiction) excites me the most. I love the ability to share my thoughts with others and help fellow writers to follow their passion. More than anything, I like just transforming a blank void into something with meaning – something someone else finds value in, whether it’s just to be entertained or the piece is simply useful.

    Believe it or not, another reason why I wake up everyday is so my aquatic pets can continue to thrive. I’ve been an aquarium hobbyist for years now (my oldest fish is almost 9 years old), and since then my one aquarium has grown to three – all with different ecosystems and needs. Just the thought of waking up to see my fish gets me going, as corny as it sounds.

    “What bothers you?” – Well, many things bother me, to be honest. I guess one thing that bothers me is the number of people suffering from anxiety or depression, or worse, both. I know from personal experience how painful suffering from either one can be, and it would be awesome if I could somehow alleviate the pain, especially for high school and college students (since I think anxiety and depression are harder to endure during those times).

    So, back to the main question – “What would you do now if you knew you would not fail” – well, I don’t know what I’d do. I mean, there’s just so much I want to do. I want to write for big companies, for one, and I want to become a bestselling novelist. I also want to create an online community or blog for those who are suffering from anxiety and depression – or maybe even start my own consulting services. I want to also speak publicly about the matter, but my fear of public speaking is pretty much holding me back. Moreover, I want to do something else with my fish hobby, though I don’t know what that would be.

    I suppose I’ll figure it all out eventually, but I think it’s best for me to just take each step at a time. First, I’ll get my writing business up and running. Then I’ll think about the rest. Thanks, Chris, for a fabulous post.

  • Anne-Greeth says:

    This is a briliant article, it totally get the essence of life. The way we always look at the risks of life, and then figure out that it isn’t worth it, eventhough we didn’t try yet, we should just try either we fail or not, because the experience is worth it.

  • Gabrielle Gibson says:

    Hmmm…very GOOD question and one that I have no answer to. I have thought about this many, many times in my young life (I’m 30) and still don’t have an answer. The closest I’ve come so far is that I would travel the world as a food and wine critic but I believe I would tire of that one within a few years. To be “passionless” is rather depressing. There are things that I do well, others that I do exceptionally well and none that I am passionate about. Passion for me is fleeting. As soon as the project is over or the “idea” fully developed my passion and interest wanes. This has been my quagmire since graduation from high school in 1998. Everyone has high hopes for those who graduate at the top of their class but all it shows is that you know how to “play within the system” and “take orders”.

  • Jeanette Vieira says:

    I asked myself this question a few years ago and with that I left my 9-5 job and sold everything I owned. My husband and I now live/work/travel from our fantastic old motorhome.

    We’ve been told a 100x that we’re doing what “everyone only talks about doing.” So, I try and encourage people to take the risk even if the chance of (perceived) failure is looming. The experience is worth it, so you can’t fail.

    Now, I’m trying to expand into a new area of our business and the fear of failure is looming, still. It’s a day to day task to talk myself out of it! Thanks for giving me tools to press on again.

  • Matt says:

    1. I am an active athlete and have great interest in entrepreneurship so I would combine the two starting my own non-profit organization where I take kids living in poverty and some way aid them to get out of poverty and put them on the field where they would stay out of trouble
    2. I would live a minimalist life, traveling to Canada/Alaska/Another continent and leave all possessions and money behind. The goal would be to become one with nature and truly learn the purpose of life.
    3. As awesome as the question appears to our perception in this world where failure is an everyday occurance, it would be awful when the perception becomes a reality. This is because life would have no purpose. There would be nothing to strive for, and with no failure comes no success. No one would face adversity, which would lead to a monotonous life.

    The answers somewhat contradict, but my brain is like that. It took the question in so many different directions all at the same time.

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  • JoJOe says:

    I have a really great dentist, if he decides he wants to quit the profession to paint and write, that’s his choice, but the loss to myself and his patients will be missed.
    A man was here to fix the internet cable yesterday, he was great and I’m online again. I really needed his professional knowledge, thank god he showed up.
    The superintendent of my building is always smiling and happy and fast. He gets everything done around here and it keeps all us tenants safe and able to go about our business. If he wants to leave to help kids in another country, he’ll be awesome too. But we love him all the same.
    The guy at Home Depot gave me the right nuts and bolts and information on how to fix the kitchen sink. I really was thankful for that, that leaking sink was wasting water.
    The lady who processed my driver’s license, she was so funny, had enough jokes to be a standup comedian, but she was just as good sitting with a private audience.
    There is a man in a wheel chair who sits in the lobby and mumbles hello, because he can’t speak well. He’s very reliable; his consistency teaches us all to “be there”

    What would I do If I knew I could not fail.
    I’d be a professional Grateful Person.
    You see I can fail at this often: Regrets, anger, loss, selfishness, frustration, etc…

    Hopefully we all won’t run to the hills with stray dogs under one arm and a can of paint in the other with a nap sack full of blank paper and 20 pens in our pockets.

    Life is but a dream, we’re already living it. Make this moment the dream.
    Don’t be over there. BE HERE, right now, this minute and you’ll see the dream is right in front of you, right NOW.

  • Aaron Flatscreenface says:

    Chris, I read your ‘over night success’ document last week and am now working my own manifesto to act as a founding document for my own creative business. What excites me is story, whether fiction or non, mythology or news, so I’m going to create all of these. What bothers me is the environmental destruction of my beautiful New Zealand for the sake of corporate greed. I have had so many ideas over the years, not all of them practical, but now I can see how I can make them work in different ways. So- thank you! *fingers crossed this is going to work*

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  • Daniel says:

    The fear of failure prevents us from becoming who we really are. I can’t stand when people don’t live up to their potential. When they are somewhere when they don’t belong.

    I was stuck at an OK job for years because of it.

    But fear of failure is self-imposed. It doesn’t exist. Others don’t see it. It’s an excuse when we don’t want to take an action.

    I would like to help others to realize it. Help them to overcome it.

    Great post, Chris.

  • orlaith says:

    great question-

    Simple for me to answer. I’d trust myself that I know how to eat and don’t have to count calories every god damn day and worry and fret if someone even suggests eating out. PAIN IN THE ASS. Never giving up trying to BEAT the Eating disorder voice 🙂

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