Dr. Regina Dugan was the first female Director at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and is now Vice President of Engineering and leader of the Advanced Technology and Projects group at Google.
In 2012, during a TED talk, Dr. Dugan asked, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”
She said, “If you really ask yourself this question, you can’t help but feel uncomfortable. Because when you ask it, you begin to understand how the fear of failure constrains you, how it keeps us from attempting great things…The path to truly new, never-been-done-before things always has failure along the way…We cannot both fear failure and make amazing new things.”
This has been a guiding principle for me since I heard her talk.
What would I do if I knew I would not fail?
Here’s an example: what would I do to support military families if I knew I would not fail? I’m happy to report that the answer is – exactly what I’m doing now. I’m leading our Association in the development of a new communication tool using a mobile app, called MyMilitaryLife.
To be honest, the don’t-be-afraid-to-fail mentality is part of the National Military Family Association personality. As an Association, we’ve done truly new, never-been-done-things.
Our Association is a built on a foundation started by women in the ‘60’s. In the 80’s, we convinced Congress to pass a bill to benefit military families living in an area no one had constituents – overseas. More recently, our advocacy organization started a summer camp program, fondly known as Operation Purple Camps. We changed the way we think about military spouse education through our innovative scholarship program.
Looking back, we would have never been able to send nearly 50,000 military kids to camp if we were constrained by fear. We would have never been able to risk investing $2.5 million in military spouses to advance their education if we were afraid to try new things. And we would have never been able to harness the power of technology to make our military families’ lives easier if we didn’t attempt the next great thing.
Is it scary? You betcha.
Is it risky? Yep.
Did we have failures along the way? Sure. It is part of the learning process. Regina Dugan explained, “you can’t learn how to fly, unless you fly.”
But is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.
What would you do if you knew you would not fail?