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What Would You Do If You Couldn’t Fail?

hippo1I was compiling a list of questions this week that I wanted to use in  ‘How To Be Rich and Happy’ and one of the ones I was considering is the old chestnut of:

“What would you do, if you knew you couldn’t fail?’

This question is to life coaches what ‘Have you cleaned your room” is to parenting. “Coach what do you plan on doing in the second half to pull back the 30 point deficit?” is to unimaginative sports journalists. And “Can the Honorable Member explain why his moat needed cleaning at the tax payers expense?” is to UK politicians.

On the surface “What would you do, if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ seems like an excellent question. It reminds me of the sales question “If money weren’t an issue, would you purchase the product or service?”

That question is designed to isolate the objection. If you know money is the ONLY obstacle to securing a sale, then you can deal with that objection without the concern of another one popping up further down the road and taking its place.

Similarly, with asking  “What would you do, if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ you are isolating the fear of failure so that you can deal with that issue. The only downside to that, is fear is so huge to most people I’m not sure how useful it is to isolate it.

It’s a bit like a Ferrari sales person using the money question on me. ” Yeh for sure I’d buy, but how are you going to overcome the disparity between the cash I have (about 150 bucks)  and the cash you need off me (about $150k)?

The reason I have some misgivings about asking “What would you do, if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ with regard to self development is because the sentence contains the embedded command of failure.

The unconscious mind doesn’t do at all well with negative words. That’s why it’s best to make sure goals are in the positive. “I want to achieve a target weight of 150lbs” is a better goal than “I don’t want to look like a Hippo anymore”.

I’m not sure of the value of even talking about failure in most cases. The reason being, is that it immediately focuses the mind on the wrong thing. It also raises the specter of failure with somebody that may not have even considered it.

What if we asked this instead?

“What would you do, if you knew you would definitely succeed?’

That seems a far more empowering question to me, a question that allows you to move forward in time and imagine success. You can step into the feeling of success by further asking “What would that look, sound, feel, taste and smell like to me?

This question is similar to the one I spoke about in the last post on avoiding getting ripped off when sales people try and get you to ‘own’ the product before you’ve bought it. This is significantly more useful though because it’s getting you to own a feeling of success and increase your desire and thus (hopefully) motivation rather than a new kitchen or car.

Admittedly, it doesn’t  isolate the problem of fear as well and I guess in some cases that can be useful, but I do think it’s an excellent alternative for some people.

I just wanted to throw that idea ‘out there’ for you because the real point of this post was to tell you about some brilliant books I’ve recently read.

These aren’t book reviews per se because I get bored writing such stuff. Instead they are recommendations with a brief reason of why I like the book in question and the value it may add to you. The links are affiliate links. I don’t usually do that, but I had a number of people tell me after the Bodhipaksa interview that I should, so I have!

Let me say firstly, that Don’t Ask Stupid Questions’ with a recommended retail of $19.99 is only going to be available until this Friday 12th at the current price of $5.99 for hardback and the e-book. Ponder no more and join the wise souls that have already bought a copy today!  Go on gorgeous, you know you want to ;-)

41edlmbmkxl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-bigtopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_How We Decide’ by Jonah Lehrer

This is the best book I have read this year and probably the best I have read since Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink’. It is similar to ‘Blink’ in so much as it takes a look at rapid cognition, but it goes a whole lot deeper.

‘How We Decide’ not only explains what is going on inside the brain as we make decisions and why we are sometimes so poor, but it does so in a manner that is accessible and interesting to the lay person. You won’t get lost in academic jargon because what there is, is explained clearly and concisely.

Lehrer brilliantly uses real life examples of famous ‘blow ups’ and successes to explain what was actually happening inside the mind of the person at that time. Occasionally his facts are a bit off, referring to Vince Young as a top flight Quarterback in the NFL when he has been a bust, and saying Jean Van De Velde lost the British Open on the eighteenth hole, when in reality his total collapse meant a play-off he then lost, but these are minor quibbles.

‘How We Decide’ will help you understand your thought processes better, realize when to let your unconscious make decisions and when it’s best to use your conscious rational mind. It even explains why so many people get caught up in credit card debt and others are prone to become addicts.

If you liked ‘Blink’ or ‘Stumbling on Happiness, you’ll love ‘How We Decide’ and you’ll also really enjoy….

411kxnjpsel_sl500_aa240_1Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely

Most people presume they are a rational person making decisions in life based on cold hard facts. The fact is everybody is irrational and we all make decisions often in spite of contradictory facts and evidence.

As a sales person I have intuitively known people are irrational for years, but I never realized that irrationality was so predictable and so exploited by advertisers and marketers.

‘Predictably Irrational’ explains why we procrastinate, why we like to leave our options open, often to our own detriment,  the power of free, why people are dishonesty and the real cost to Society, the power of beliefs and the difference between social and market norms.

Some of the stories I have read or heard about before, but as a Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT, there is a lot of his own work included that was new to me. The way he weaves it all together makes this a highly enjoyable and incredibly enlightening read. This is a great companion book to ‘How We Decide’ and equally as accessible.

If you want to know more about what makes you and others tick and be even more aware of how the less scrupulous sometimes use that knowledge to sell to you, then this is the book for you.

A Life Worth Living’ by William F Giruzzi

41yb8xvxhcl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-bigtopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_I really am struggling to know what to say about this quirky little book. You could read it under 2 hours, so if I tell you it took me a week and a half to get half way through it you’ll know I was less than gripped. I wasn’t even sure why I was sticking with it other than a sense it was going to be worth it. I have a bookshelf littered with books I quit on when they didn’t seem to be offering any value. This almost made it onto my shelf of dishonor.

Fortunately I stuck with ‘A Life Worth Living’ and I say fortunately, because it is definitely a book worth reading. I almost think it could be subtitled ‘Zen And The Art Of Life Design’ because it has that kind of feel to me. Having said that, is has nothing overtly to do with Zen Buddhism and everything to do with getting the reader to think completely differently about his or her own life.

The author even uses a cunning plan of asking the reader questions at the end of each chapter to promote further thought. Hmm, where have I seen that done before I wonder?

I really don’t want to say too much because I could sum it up and make it less worthy of reading and that’s like telling you Bruce Willis is really dead as I hand you a DVD of ‘The Sixth Sense’

Giruzzi uses a lot of repetition to get his message across, but I think that is important, because he certainly doesn’t leave the reader in any doubt as to what they need to do to make themselves ‘A Life Worth Living’ . And no, this isn’t a ‘how to’ book, in fact far from it, but it is a paradigm shifter and one that I guarantee will offer you insights into your life that you never considered. Highly recommended.

This is no sales gimmick. I genuinely do only have 1 place left for my 50% down and 50% pay when you want to offer for bloggers and solopreneurs for July. I may run this again in August if I have the time, but I may also be too wrapped up in the launch of ‘How To Be Rich and Happy’ to be able to.

I almost forgot. I did an interview with Chris at Purpose Power Coaching last week. If you want to check it out, here is the link.

11 comments to What Would You Do If You Couldn’t Fail?

  • Bruce Willis is dead in that movie!?!?!
    Well I guess I don’t have to catch up on that one now. (ha – kidding!)

    Regarding the questions, I tend to agree. Except when someone is so mired in fear that they can’t truly believe they’ll succeed.

    If they’re asking ‘what would I do to succeed’ but in the back of their mind, they’re full of beliefs of failure…..there will still be a disconnect. Sometimes, questions/answers in between the two extremes (success versus failure) is what it takes to get people moving into action.

    My two cents anyway.

    All the best!

    Deb Owens last blog post..what’s your story? (what do you think it ‘should’ be?)

  • Dang it! Deb beat me to it — I was definitely going to give you a hard time for the spoiler.

    Great reframing. A whole different energy behind the ‘success’ question.

    It did occur to me, though, that some people (not that I know any personally) might have trouble envisioning what success looks, feels, and smells like. Hard to connect with a destination you can’t imagine.

    Wrinklers last blog post..My new dress

  • I might be over-thinking this because all of a sudden my head hurts. Without the risk, it all seems rather flat doesn’t it and not much to get excited about. I suppose the fear comes from caring about the outcome and it being challenging enough to be exciting. Contemplating guaranteed success feels a little like cheating myself out of some very interesting times!

    Heh, I’m working on no sleep so I’m going to read this again tomorrow and see if I feel differently. Today, though, those two questions seem like 3 wishes that turn into a curse.

    How We Decide is brilliant, I’m going to read it again because I suspect I missed a lot. The other two I will put on my list since they come up in my suggested books a lot. BTW, I’m glad you decided to post affiliate links as I buy most books from Amazon and since I can’t use my own link, somebody else might as well get the referral fee!

    Tracys last blog post..People who need pupa are the pluckiest people

  • @ Deb – When I watched that movie, it had been on about 10 minutes when my wife turned to me and said “I bet he’s already dead” I sat through the entire film wondering whether he was dead. It ruined it for me and now I am on a mission to ruin it for the rest of the world. Bwahahahahaha

    @ Wrinkler – Most people can tap into at least one representational system. So if they are poor at seeing it, they’ll know what it feels or sounds like. If they can’t do any they’re probably dead, so it’s not so much of a problem.

    @ Tracy – Who said anything about risk? The point is to get people to step into what it is they want so they can get a taste of it. I’m not suggesting there won’t be any fear, but it’s best to have that when we are already invested in the end result. That way we are more likely to push through it.

  • Laurie

    Well Tim, I know this sounds predictable but I am having trouble making a decision about which book to read first. ARGH! It makes me think my life is really not worth living!

  • @ Laurie – I think for you, definitely the last one.

  • ‘How we decide’ is on my reading wish list. The other two are new to me.

    ‘What would you do, if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ and ‘What would you do, if you knew you would definitely succeed?’ – it would be interesting to see how people would answer these questions differently (even though they are asking the same thing.)

    Just a question – wouldn’t the belief of what you are worth, or what you can achieve come in the way of answering these questions? The way fear of failure holds us back, wouldn’t questions regarding what you can have/achieve/self-worth hold you back as well while answering these questions?

    Avanis last blog post..Following My Heart

  • Fear and success are two ends of a scale that says that one is “wrong” and one is “right” – but yet they are both fantastic things to experience. Failure allows you to learn, move forward a lot wiser than you were and maybe start a completely different path.

    They are also the END of something – success and failure both mean the end, either a great end or a not so great end. What about the journey? That needs to be enjoyed too.

    The trick is to find a neutral word that doesn’t represent good or bad but just is, while empowering at the same time…. need to give that one some thought

    “What would you do if you looked back and saw everything worked out the way it was meant to”

    “What would you do if you knew no matter what happens it will all reveal something great about you”

    “what would you do if you knew you were on to something!”

    “what would you do if you knew no matter what happens you’ll handle it!”

    I’ll keep thinking :)

    Great post.


    Diane Corriettes last blog post..Dear Liza : There’s a hole in my business bucket

  • @ Avani – Interestingly I have been writing about that today. You’re right of course, beliefs do come into play, but this is just designed to shift somebody’s thinking. A starting point if you will.

    @ Diane – Thanks! Some good questions and I especially like: “What would you do if you knew no matter what happens it will all reveal something great about you”

  • [...] a question that counselors and motivational speaker-types often ask. I like what my Twitter friend, life coach Tim Brownson, asks his clients, though: “What would you do, if you knew you would definitely [...]

  • Great post and I am definitely going to add those books to my list of summer reading. Thanks for the insight!

    Ripple On!!!