My good friends Mollie and Dan are the proud owners of the game "Rock Band." If you're not familiar with this addictive, "oh-my-gosh-is-it-midnight-already" video toy, Wikipedia describes it as allowing "up to four players to virtually perform rock music songs on lead guitar, bass guitar, drums, and vocals using special controllers modeled after musical instruments."
The game inexplicably calculates "points" for hitting your notes on the right beat. Since the foursome typically includes whatever new guests join the household that night, it's easy for a first-timer to fumble the keys on their plastic pseudo-instrument and make some mistakes.
If they mess up enough, the system flashes "FAIL" on the screen and that person's instrument goes uncomfortably silent. (This also happens if, after a few glasses of wine, you've selected a difficulty level other than "easy"--not that it's ever happened to me. . . )
It's incredibly sad when you "fail" and the others keep playing, working hard to reach a successful conclusion of the song. It's even sadder when the entire band "fails," and the music fades mid-stream, with the ragtag group of avatars who represent you on the video stage looking ashamed and embarrassed.
After a few weeks of playing, Mollie recognized there had to be a way to turn off this annoying "fail" mechanism. With the help of the 7th grader visiting at the time, she found it--the mecca, the bliss, the "no-fail" mode.
So we picked up our sticks, guitars, and mike again. And got through the entire song--sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always complete.
"What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?"
Writer and pastor Robert Schuller is credited with the above quote, although most know it better from inspirational pewter paperweights in holiday catalogs or on card shop shelves. But that message sprung to life for us after we chose "no-fail" mode. . .
* We sang louder, unafraid of missing a word (which isn't easy when it's the French part in Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer.")
* We tried different instruments, breaking out of our comfort zone of our favorites.
* We increased our individual challenge levels--maybe not yet to "hard," but took a chance on "medium".
* We chose harder songs for the group as a whole -- literally saying to each other, "hey, we can't fail, so why not?"
* We just had more fun!
Okay, you're smart, and at this point, you get the metaphor. You know I'm suggesting that we play in our own "no-fail" mode in all the other areas of our life. And while it's not quite as simple as asking a 7th grader to help you find the right menu button, could it be as simple as just choosing something other than failure?
* Is a struggling business situation a failure--or a learning opportunity?
* Is leaving a dead-end job a failure--or a bold move to take your life back?
* Is being rejected for a promotion or new job a failure--or the stepping stone that frees you for what's coming next?
Failure is the ultimate "who says" game, primarily defined by our own judgment calls. In your work and life, the only thing that really matters is what you say. So why not choose "no-fail" mode? And if you're not sure of the words, just open your mouth and sing anyway!