A retirement planning guide I looked at recently contained the obligatory chapter about what will you do with yourself when you’re done working, perhaps as a fantasy sop to appease the reader before the equations in later chapters demonstrate that you will never be able to stop working, as long as you have a taste for warm houses and hot showers.
One of the thought-starters in the chapter was, “what would you do if you knew you could not fail?” I let the question roll around in my mind for a little while, but it gathered no moss, and quite quickly at that. What is, “not failing?” What would it mean to make art and “not fail?” From my point of view, not failing means not learning. If I never failed in my art making, does that mean my art would be great from the get-go, right out of the box / paint bottle / off the needles? My first rugs were successes, in their own way, I suppose. But my current ones are better.
Fortunately, another question in the same chapter comes at the problem differently: What would you do with your days if you had $100,000,000 in the bank? OK. That generates a different answer. Making art free of the need to have the art itself be the source of my ability to pay for hot showers is a different situation. The book, however, presented the two questions as roughly equivalent.
Perhaps the type of person who visits my studio and remarks, “You have so many ideas!!” really does need some reassurance about trying new activities without fear of failure. Maybe I self-edit so quickly I don’t even notice I’m doing it, and I simply don’t attempt things that promise certain failure (cooking comes to mind…). Perhaps I rationalize “fear of failure” by thinking that the things I avoid promise certain high on-going expenses. If I ever do get $100,000,000 in the bank, I’ll test downhill skiing again, or horses. Feel free to offer to fund the experiment.
I’ve seen that question before. In one form or another, it appears in a lot of life-planning material. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? I’ve never quite noticed the fundamental problem with its structure. Fail: not achieve the precise outcome expected? But so many of my experiments wind up taking me places I couldn’t have imagined. It is not failure simply because “actual outcome <> planned outcome.”
I thought about this question for a few days before posting the entry, and for a while I had a good counter-argument but forgot to write it down and lost it. Now I’m being fanciful. Does anyone ever answer the question this way?
Q: What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
A: I’d end world hunger and bring about world peace. But I might not be able to do that, so I won’t start.
I guess I just don’t understand the question.