(This piece originally appeared on my old blog in October 2012.)
“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
These are the words inscribed on a very popular paperweight. It is meant to be inspirational, encouraging you to aim high in life. Nice platitude. They’ve sold a squezillion of these office accessories. I don’t know who came up with this phrase, but it smells like Stephen Covey to me. Mr. “Seven Habits” was always good for executive inspiration. Could be Robert Schuller though. He loved bromides, too.
What would you attempt if you were guaranteed success? If you were certain that there would be no downside, no penalty for your actions, what course would you set? What would you really do if you knew you could not fail?
So what does it say about me that whenever I see this paperweight I think to myself, “I’d kill a few people and buy lottery tickets.” What, not lofty enough for you?
Sure, it might be more socially acceptable, more noble if my goals were to end world hunger, but I’m too old and tired to care at a global level any more. That “saving the planet” shit is for the young. When I was young, I was invincible. I was fierce. I was willing to slog through gator-infested swamps to achieve my goals. Now, not so much.
When I was young, I wanted to save the world. I tried to enforce order. I followed every rule, even the stupid ones like don’t wear white shoes after Labor Day. As if that made any difference to the greater good. Now that I’m older and have more perspective, I’ll wear white shoes whenever I please. Hell, I’ll wear white, bedazzled flip-flops in November if I feel like it. My footwear does not effect my standing as a good citizen. How about that?
The perspective gained from living for a while makes life easier. First, you realize that you don’t know everything. Eventually, it dawns on you that you really don’t know a damn thing. Then you’ll realize that not only do you not know anything, you don’t care that much about it either. Poof! Life is so much easier when you have perspective.
Family, friends, comfort and health become the entire world to you. It turns out that’s enough. If everyone took proper care of their own health, their friends and their families, it would ripple across the globe and the world would be a better place for all.
So now that I’ve shared my aged wisdom, let’s revisit the issue. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? I’m sorry. I’d still kill a couple of people and buy lottery tickets.