It happens to the best of us. To the worst of us. To all of us. We make plans, devise resolutions. We have goals and responsibilities. Deadlines loom on not so distant horizons and obligations hover heavily upon us.
We mean well. We try hard. We begin with hope and go on with grit. But even so. Sometimes our best efforts aren’t quite enough. Sometimes other things happen and we’re utterly unable to make it work.
It’s a human thing.
Whether our reach was too great or our grasp too slight, whether it was within our control or a capricious trick of circumstance, we fail. We do it often and messily. We do it miserably and regretfully. On some occasions we do it spectacularly. On others, more quietly and sorrowfully.
We are human so we fail. But that’s not the point.
It’s what we do next that matters.
Among the many writers I admire is an expatriate Irishman whose face in older age is an ode to endurance. He wrote some of my favourite words. Among them he wrote these:
His name is Samuel Beckett, by the way. And while some might doubt his propensity as a poster boy for motivation, I personally find rugged comfort in the idea – and practice – of trying again after failing and failing again after trying.
Ultimately, I like the thought of failing better than before. It’s hopeful in strange kind of way, wouldn’t you say?
The notion of “failing better” could of course be read to suggest failing in a more definitive, defiant or flamboyant manner next time around. And why not, if that’s how you choose to do it?
But for me, failing better means doing so with a certain gentleness and grace. It means having enough courage and compassion to accept the outcomes of my efforts, whatever shape they take, and being willing to go on anyway. A better failure is one in which I’ve tried. I’ve fumbled and stumbled, recovered, and discovered something that might make my future failures easier to forgive.
This may not be what Samuel Beckett meant. But it’s how I choose to interpret his words.
I fail often, both secretly and openly. I carry my regrets with me. But as long as I try to fail better each time, I’ll keep on going. I’ll try again and fail again. And again and again and again, doing it better whenever and however I can.
I’ll go on.
What keeps you going following a failure? In what words or wisdom do you find solace and strength?