New Thoughts on How to Act As If It's Impossible to Fail
May 21, 2020
Have you ever heard the quote, “Act as if it’s impossible to fail.” from Dorthea Brande’s Wake Up and Live?
I've heard this saying so many times over my career, and in my entrepreneur endeavors, that I never really stopped to give it much thought. Recently I felt the need to dig into this saying a little deeper and understand it more fully.
On the surface, I’ve always felt like this saying was essentially translated into ‘fake it until you make it’ mindset. This is a mindset I don’t fully support. Transparency and authenticity are so important to me, that I’ve found it difficult to encourage others to fake anything. Of course, that’s not the intention of the ‘fake it until you make it’ mindset, but I’m a literal person and I just couldn’t get comfortable with this mentality. Which, may be why I’ve been slow to embrace this quote…but not anymore.
What’s caused my shift in mentality? Amazingly enough, I actually went back and read the book, which is not well circulated approximately 84 years after being published in 1936. Through my reading, I’ve discovered that I have taken this quote somewhat out of context, which is easy to do when you only see one sentence from a full book, but that’s another conversation for another day.
What does this quote, “Act as if it’s impossible to fail” mean to me today?
First and foremost, the biggest revelation was to interpret the word ‘Act’ as doing something instead of pretending to be something, Mind blown, right?
What Ms. Brande is saying is not to ‘fake it until you make it,’ but instead to take action. In fact, digger even deeper, to take the next action, as if it could not be the wrong action. This interpretation for me reconciles with my values of authenticity and transparency, and instead of fueling the imposter syndrome mentality, transfers that energy to a focus on intuition and supporting the idea that we know the next right action and that will take us to where we want to go.
How many times do we get hung up on trying new things, starting a task, or moving toward our goals because we say we don’t know how? Sometimes we educate ourselves to the extreme with one more book or one more podcast, sometimes we suffer from analysis paralysis by having too many options, and sometimes we let the fear of getting it wrong hold us back. But what if we took the next action with the confidence that it is the right action.
It’s likely that we know the next action to take, but we get hung up on making a list of all the next actions and let that create a mental roadblock we can’t get past. In fact, it’s very common that we make things bigger than they need to be. Usually, the next action is something small that leads you to another next action, and so on. Making each one of these small decisions to take the next action then starts to build confidence in our abilities and our intuition and allows us to continue to make decisions and actions that move us toward our goal.
Like Dale Carnegie said, "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
When I reread this quote, with the fresh interpretation, it was fuel on a fire for me. There were several projects that I had been contemplating and considering (read: stalling) without taking action. I made the decision to revisit my goals and consider what the next action might for each and then I acted as if it would be impossible to fail if I took that action.
The first thing I worked on was a new launch for our Stress Reduction Program related particularly to stress during the COVID-19 situation. We had always debated what lead magnets to use and whether or not to to a live or video launch. Instead of debating the merits of launching during this situation, I made the decision to do it. Instead of drawing out a full launch plan with timelines and details, I just created a social media post and posted it. Instead of worrying about the copy and getting several opinions and edits, I wrote it and published it.
After that, I shifted my focus to redesigning my website. I had been debating moving to a new platform and worried about the difficulty of learning a new platform, how much time it would take, whether I should be spending that time somewhere else, etc. Instead, I jumped in and got to work and started redesigning since I could work on it offline while my existing platform remained live. I made the decision to do the next step I knew how to do and used the help screens to learn the things I didn’t.
There are so many stories like these. In fact this concept was particularly valuable to me during the COVID-19 situation because I was able to use it, along with some extra free time in insolation, to make this 60 day period one of those most productive for my businesses.
It was so freeing to be able to move things forward one step at a time without getting overwhelmed and tied up with the emotions and fears around it. Also believing that it would be impossible for the next step to fail. When I got stuck on what the next step might be, I found myself saying I didn’t know, I asked, “If you did know, what would it be?” For some reason, this small question was able to bring forth my intuition and lead me into the next step.
What are you currently afraid to start? Can you think of the next action you can take? Can you do that action as if it is impossible to fail?
In fact, to add a tactical component to this article, here are six steps to help you act as if it is impossible to fail.
Make a list of all the goals you are currently working towards.
Document the next action you can take for each goal. Make sure it's one step, not a series of steps or a project. If you don’t know the next step ask yourself what the next step would be if you did know.
Schedule each of these next steps, in the near future, in your calendar or to-do list.
Take the action without excuse or procrastination. Don’t let yourself postpone it. When you see it on the calendar, just do it.
Now that you’ve done that step, document the next action you can take and schedule it.
I’d love to hear about what you’ve been able to move forward by acting as if it is impossible to fail. Leave me a note in the comments below.