Every year I have a medical check-up. I get the works done. Blood tests, weight checked, blood pressure
and one or two other things that I’ll keep between myself and my doctor. It’s my way of keeping score and
managing any physical deterioration. I don’t mind growing old – I just want to delay it as long as possible.
Inevitably I’ll ask my doctor how I’m tracking. Inevitably he’ll respond with “you’ll live until you’re 90 at least.”
It’s a game we play. I enjoy it. I think he does too. This time, however, he was in a thoughtful mood and he
followed up with “you realise, of course, that you have less than half of your life left to live. Knowing that,
what would you do today if you knew you could not fail?” It is a very powerful question that got me thinking.
Have I done everything in my life that I wanted to? Have I held back on some things because I was scared of
failure? Or worried about what other people might think? Or was it just easier to continue on a safer, more
predictable, less risky path?
It’s difficult to predict success. And there is no magic potion to improve your chances. What is important is
to get started, be nimble, be prepared to fail, get over it quickly without becoming disheartened, stay dogged
and stick it out. This might seem simplistic but it’s how life is constructed. Do this and you will exponentially
improve your chances of achieving something worthwhile. But you have to be prepared to fail and this is what
holds most people back – both personally and in the decisions they take in business.
Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, was prepared to fail – publicly and ingloriously. At the end of the 1992/93 season, after winning three consecutive NBA Final Series and following the tragic murder of his father, Jordan retired from basketball and surprised the sporting world by signing a minor league baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox. Why? Because it was a dream of his to play professional baseball. In the end it didn’t work out but he devoted a year of his life (and a lot of hard work) to finding out. He returned to basketball the next season and led the Chicago Bulls to three more back to back championships. These victories were especially sweet for him.
Time is running out for me (as it is for everyone else). And I don’t want to live my life regretting what I didn’t do. Nor do I want to delay the progress of my business interests for reasons that are most likely within my control. Which gets me back to the original question – what would I do today if I knew I could not fail? The answer is a lot of things. Hopefully by the time I get to 90 I’ll have a different answer because I’d spent the previous 40 odd years clearing the list…