The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, January 24, 2008

What if you knew you could not fail?

Breakthrough

I’ve been diving fairly deeply into my stuff the last 14 months, and this morning during meditation, I think I hit a new level of integration. I’d grazed across it about four months ago, then lost it…so I’m not certain how long it will take for me to hold it. If past experience is any measure, I’d say about three or four more months. But the point I reached seems to be a resolution of several interesting dualities: black/white, male/female, child/adult, parent/child. Resolving the duality would allow me to function above the level of apparent lack or hurt, and would free up the energy currently locked in that emotional scar tissue.

Great, if I’m right. Movement from one to another level requires an increase in available energy: that either means MORE energy, or more exquisitely focused energy. Frankly, I like to go for both simultaneously.

What would you aspire to, if you KNEW you could not fail?

That’s our question of the day. We limit ourselves in so many ways. Our heads are filled with ideas of what is not possible—for us, or for anyone. And yet the leaders and shapers of the world dare to dream beyond those limits. Sometimes they fail. So what? I remember someone saying to me: “Steve, you dream too big. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.” So what? I’m a big boy. I can handle it.

But you know what I can’t handle? Feeling that I’m not living up to my potential. That’s just me. I imagine two scenarios:
1) At the moment of death, it is revealed to me that my dreams exceeded my capacities.
2) At the moment of death, it is revealed to me that my capacities exceeded my dreams.

I don’t know about you, but the second one sucks. I would rather go all out, break my heart again and again and again, pick my self up bloody and bruised and hurl myself at the locked gate again, than slink off and nurse my wounds and join the “you can’t win” crowd.

Now, better still is to simply operate in a Zen state of awareness where your normal daily activities, approached with intensity but not strain, naturally takes you through your personal evolution. Just awaken every day, chop wood and carry water, love your spouse, play with your children, play with your toys, tend your garden, rejoice in the life God gave you, and go to bed each night pleasantly exhausted and ready for renewal and a new day. Effort, but no strain. Just hunting and gathering and loving and giving and growing.

And I think that it starts by re-claiming your dreams. So ask yourself: What would you aspire to if you KNEW you could not fail? Choose goals in all three major arenas. Begin to move toward them. Find role models in all three areas, and determine their belief systems, mental syntax, and use of physiology. As you run into barriers, mark them on your mental “map”: you are exploring the intersection of internal and external reality. As you experience fear investigate it, and see where your emotions are knotted. And every day, celebrate the joy of sheer existence.

Let’ s make 2008 a fabulous year for all of us. There’s enough joy to go around. Love, health, and success are not a zero-sum games.

15 comments:

Pagan Topologist said...

This is such a trick question, Steve. The answers that immediately come to mind are "Fly like Superman." "Design and build a faster-than-light starship by the end of 2008." "Stop all non-biological carbon dioxide emissions while improving the life of all humans on the planet." "Get Oprah to feature some f & sf writers in her book club."

I do not expect to do any of these, and somehow I suspect that these are not what you are really asking. But I do not see how to draw the line between the impossible and the possible, given the premise that I 'cannot fail.'

David

Mar said...

Sometimes the fear is not of failure but of success.

Steven Barnes said...

I'm not sure you're right. If you want to fly like Superman, doesn't that imply you should learn to fly a plane, or sky-dive? If you want to design and build a FTL ship, are you supporting and promoting whatever technological advancements you consider precursive to this? Are you active in Green causes? And have you organized an internet campaign to get the finest S%SF writers onto Oprah, or into her book club? Any of these would seem to tie into your passions. Lives, damned fine lives, have been built around goals similar to each of these.

Mike Ralls said...

If I knew that I could _not_ fail?

Become a professional actor / writer. Have enough money that I can support my family while only having to work at what I want to work at.

Get my body fat down to 13% and live long enough that medical science can end and eventually reverse aging.

Stay married to my wife for life and have a great and loving relationship.

Start a religion or philosophy that would help the human race and last for thousands of years. (Hey, you said I could not fail.)

Pat Logan said...

This is the biggest thing stopping me, I think. Great question, Steve. Keep 'em coming.

Mar said...

Steve, you disagreed with my very short comment this morning. I want to expand on it because I think we are in agreement. I wrote: "Sometimes the fear is not of failure but of success."

This is where the comment comes from. I meet so many people who are afraid of their own success: in their relationships, marriage, career, education, even choosing the food they eat. They are not afraid that they will fail, they are comfortable in failing. It is a controllable situation: they can guide their failure.

Here is an example that is several years old. Someone who I suspect we both know had me "take a wack" at her resume. (I have written resumes for people who successfully competed for C-something level jobs in high-growth companies. Not really part of my consulting practice, but it happened.) The woman had held really responsible positions at two magazines, yet from the resume you couldn't be sure she had held any level of responsibility, or that she had done so for years. I interviewed her, asking very pointed questions about duties and responsibilities, and the precise job descriptions and titles. I reassembled a good resume for her. From others I heard that she had gotten the resume, but I am told she felt that it was "too much." She has not spoken to me since, nor has she gotten a job like she could have gotten. Sometimes she can't pay her rent. Lots of things go into these failure decisions, including succeeding elsewhere, but that is not what happened here.

I see this in one of my nieces, too. At 27 she is economically 17. She chooses colleges that are not accredited and is angry at those of us who encouraged her to go to an accredited community college. When the promised potential employers tell her that the unaccredited program does not qualify her for a job, she sinks comfortably back into the roll of a 17 year old living with mom. BTW she is the mother of a 7 1/2 yo daughter.

I think that success is mostly choosing one path and following it.

My own failures have been in great part due to not choosing and sticking to a path, and instead meandering around it, or straying onto another path. No matter how interesting the alternative path was, there was no great success there, because I was not following either path. Staying focused and committing to the mundane as well as the spectacular leads to success. By recognizing the paths, I have been able to have multiple successes, but again, it is keeping on a path and not meandering from it.

Follow the path. Kick the ball down the road. Finish things.

el viejo soldado said...

If I COULDN'T fail? Probably the same thing I'm doing now ...

I'm keeping things managable, reasonable, and within my capacity to do if I TRY like a SOB.

I'm eventually ... probably this summer ... give a go at walking the breadth of the USA as part of my training plan to compete in the Old Fart Triathelon in Hawaii and then tackle the 2008 or 2009 NY Marathon. I don't give one single solitary damn about coming in first ... just MAKING it will suit me just fine.

Marty S said...

This may sound vapid, but if I couldn't fail I would spend my life being happy. I have always believed that we are only on this earth for a short time and so we might as well enjoy that time to best of our ability.

Michelle said...

:)

I attend gaming conventions regularly. Once I joined a game where the world and races were being created as we went. I was given a character sheet with the bare minimum stats and the phrase: You believe you can do anything.

As things happen...the characters began to fight against on another. I told the gm that I would create fire.

"Can you do that?" he asked.

"I," I said pointing to the character sheet. "Can do anything."

Steven...you can't ask the question..what would you do if you knew you could not fail?...then put qualifiers on it.

If I cannot fail, then I can't fail to fly any way I damn well please.

:)

Mike Ralls said...

>Steven...you can't ask the question..what would you do if you knew you could not fail?...then put qualifiers on it.<

Eh, sure you can. Steve wasn't asking because he is a magic genie who is intending on granting wishes. He was asking, IMO, to get people to think about their life goals and to get them to realize that they should go after the things that they would do if they couldn't fail here in the real world where people can fail.

Demon Hunter said...

Completely unrelated to topic:

Steve,
I know this election is going to be historic, but I have lived in South Carolina all of my life, and I have never seen celebrity turn-out like this during a primary or election, for that matter. Check it out!

~Tyhitia

http://www.thestate.com/slideshows/gallery/288795-a296253-t3.html

Brian Dunbar said...

What if you knew you could not fail?

Build a space elevator.

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