by Niall Doherty

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

It’s one of my favorite questions to ask. Well, actually, it’s only half of my favorite question. The entire thing goes like this:

What would you do if…

  • you had all the money in the world,
  • and you knew you couldn’t fail?

I like this question because it gets people to consider what they’re passionate about. How would they spend their time if they were free to spend it any way they wanted? What would they create? What would they share? And what if they weren’t afraid of failure?

See, I’m coming to believe that everyone can make a living doing what they are passionate about. It may take hard work and sacrifice, but I believe it can be done, no matter what floats your boat.

But something I read a few days ago gave me pause. It was this article in The Guardian about the Gulf oil spill, in which I learned that BP boss Tony Hayward has something similar to my favorite question written on a plaque on his desk: “If you knew you could not fail, what would you try?” The insinuation there is that Hayward and BP have never concerned themselves too much with the possibility of failure, and look what that has led to.

And the article may indeed be right: that kind of attitude by BP probably contributed to their poor safety checks and inadequate fail-safes. But if so, it’s because Hayward and his cronies took the fail question way too far. Believing you can’t fail and plunging ahead with reckless abandon is fine if it’s only you that stands to suffer when things go pear-shaped. But when your screw-up can affect others in a catastrophic way — like the largest environmental disaster in US history is doing — then you obviously need to ask yourself some additional questions before diving in.

So that favorite question of mine has had to evolve. It now goes like this:

What would you do if…

  • you had all the money in the world,
  • you knew you couldn’t fail,
  • and you were a good and responsible citizen of planet Earth?



Learn how to build a business you can run from anywhere