What Gift Would You Give If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

We've all heard the old question: "What would you DO if you knew you could not fail?" How many of us have answered it, without making a commitment to doing anything about it?

Yeah, me too.

Recently, Liz Strauss blogged about giving when no one notices. That got me wondering. If we give with an expectation of some return, is it really a gift? Or is it a payment? Where is the line between a true gift and a payment/investment? As it turns out, every gift is an investment. The only difference is our expectation of the nature and timing of the payoff. Karin noted over at Liz's post that "Givers always gain; receivers maybe".

All this made me wonder if the "What would you do?" question isn't inherently limiting. It focuses on the cause of a benefit, not on the benefit itself. And the benefit is the real goal. With the 'do' question we focus on ourselves. With the 'give' question, we focus on the benefit to both ourselves and others. It's bigger; it's win-win; in my mind, at least, it's more compelling!

How does that feel to you?

Go ahead; give it a try. How would you answer the question "What gift would you give if you knew you could not fail?" It's okay to start small, but doesn't it give you more energy to think of things this way? Commit to giving just one gift like this, and let me know how it works!

[Originally posted at 100 Bloggers]

posted by Mike at 10:13 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, your question confuses me.

How can you 'fail' when you give? Or do you consider it a 'failure' when the gift goes unnoticed?

4:16 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Hi Karin,

When you ask "What would you DO if you could not fail?" most people think in terms of life-goal / dream efforts. For example, one of mine would be 'to write and evangelize a book that enables people to make dramatic, lasting, positive transformations in their lives'. It sounds outlandish when framed as "what would you DO", but (to me) sounds like a noble quest when framed as "what gift would you give"?

Does that make sense?


8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Makes a bit more sense when explained like this, but my honest question would be:
What's keeping you?

Just write that book, givers can't fail.

Think we think along different paths here, not to worry ;-) That's life

9:50 AM  
Blogger Mike said...


Thanks for the thoughtful comment. In truth, until this week, two things held me back: making the time for the project, and fear of wasting my time on something that would never be noticed. The combination of Liz's post and my ponderations this week gave rise to this new viewpoint on this project specifically.

So now I'm down to focus and improved time management, but the level of energy is amazing and it will get done!

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on you, Mike, I'm glad.

I'd been thinking about your 'dilemma' yesterday and remembered strongly why I wrote my first (and only ;-)) 'business novel' last year. In fact I wrote it to show my appreciation for some excellent, wondrful persons who during our time of struggle to survive in our business had given freely their advice, their knowledge, their time and their schoulders I could cry on. I started writing the novel when our business showed real signs of survival. I needed to 'wite it of my chest' ;-)

Part of my 'novel' is based on facts, part is fiction. And when it was finished a new friend - who only knew us as 'successful' business - freely translated some of my typical Dutch phrases into typical English phrases.

I dedicated my book to all of them, got it publsihed and gave copies with a personal thank you note to these people. I'm not expecting it to become a best-seller, I just had to write it, perhaps someone might learn from our stuggles.

Also, if you are 'gifted' with the writing skill/talent, you have to give, you're obliged to it.


3:47 AM  
Blogger jpbauer said...

Hello Mike

Great way to reframe the issue. It works for me since it clearly focuses on the results instead of the process required to get there. A perfect case of the use of lateral thinking.



4:19 AM  
Blogger Mike said...


What a great story, and a wonderful way to show gratitude to the people you worked with!

(And you're right about the obligation to use our gifts)


7:29 AM  
Blogger Mike said...


Thanks for commenting! And it really was one of those AHA! moments when the thought popped into my head.

Hope all is well with you,


7:31 AM  

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