What If You Fail?

There’s a better perspective to take in moments of self-doubt

Photo by Anoof Junaid on Unspash

“But what if I fail???”

The question comes from my girlfriend — she’s decided to put herself out there by starting a YouTube Channel where she’ll play video games and talk about things that she finds interesting.

It’s been a bit of an investment upfront: she bought a new desk, a camera, some computer software, and even a more powerful computer.

With these preliminary steps out of the way, the next step is to start doing it, and this is where the fear sets in.

This is the step where so many people get held up by the 4 simple words:

“What if I fail?”

It’s natural to get stuck here — we haven’t evolved to take failure lightly.

For most of our time as a species, failure in any sense would very likely lead to death. The fact that we prioritize the negative more than the positive is unfortunate but logical.

This is a phenomenon called loss aversion.

Here’s a quick example of it in action:

If I was to give you $100, you’d be happy. You could use that to buy a new shirt or take a friend out for drinks.

However, if I were to take $100 from you, you’d be more upset than you would’ve been happy to have received that bonus of $100.

Loss aversion can be simply described by saying that “Losses loom larger than gains.”

The fact that we focus disproportionately on failure as opposed to success is a symptom of this fundamental tendency.

This can result in us putting something off even though we stand to gain so much more through success than we would lose through failure.

If this resonates with you, then give this a shot:

Step 1. Establish the worst-case scenario.

Let’s use the example of my girlfriend.

Suppose that she pours her heart and soul into scripting, filming, and editing her videos and it just doesn’t pick up. For some reason, she is unable to gain much traction on YouTube, and then over the ensuing months some developments in her life cause her priorities to shift, and she decides that it is longer worth her time to continue making videos.

She has ostensibly failed.

What really happened here?

I suppose you could say that she wasted some cash on the gear, and wasted time editing all those videos, but at the end of the day it’s not much of a loss.

She tried something and it didn’t work, she can walk away with only a bit of a bruised ego and not much else.

Step 2. Establish the best-case scenario

But what if it does work!?

What if she grinds away and slowly but surely builds up a following of loyal subscribers?

What if she can build a side-hustle and then full-on career out of providing entertainment and value to these subscribers?

She is able to iterate on her brand and business and build a meaningful career that provides her with comfort, freedom, and the ability to live life on her own terms.

The key is the question:

Does the good of the best-case scenario beat the bad of the worst-case scenario?

I think in many cases the answer is a resounding heck yes!

Loss aversion causes us to focus disproportionately on the negative, but what if we can become more excited about the positive?

We need to find a way around this unfortunate inclination to prioritize the fear of failure over the fear of success.

Shift your perspective and become excited about how amazing the best-case scenario could be.

Stop asking “What if I fail?”, and start asking “What if I SUCCEED.”

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store