“Fail, fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett

Recently I’ve found myself irritated (and that’s a nice way of putting it) when I see clients/friends/acquaintances who are not – as I see it—working to their potential.

Luckily for them, many years of therapy have paid off to the extent that I’ve identified that this is not a “proportional response”—i.e. I’m not actually grumpy about their unwillingness to do more. In fact, it’s possibleI’m upset at myself for not working to my potential.

So, now we have me wondering what’s up with myself. Better.

Now, I don’t know what stories you tell yourself when you don’t work to your potential, but recently mine has looked a lot like, “Wow, it’s hot. I’d better just lie down and read a murder mystery until it’s cooler.”

When I dug a bit deeper, I noted a hint of the ‘I’m going to wait to join the gym until I lose 5 pounds’ mindset: i.e. I’m not sure/uncomfortable with what to do next, so I won’t do anything at all.

This one is seductive. This one has a ring of plausibility to it. This one makes it seem like I’m making a choice– after all, not making a decision is making a decision.

All of which led to some reflecting on failure –- in this case, however,failure as success. Because if there is anything I have learned, we don’t value what we haven’t worked for. (And our great writers back me up. Consider this quote from Thomas Paine, “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives anything its value.”)

Too often, however, we view failure as the worst of the ‘F words’.

At this point I began considering people who have failed publicly, and with grace, and I remembered John Kennedy, Jr. whose response to failing the New York bar exam (twice—he passed on the third try) led to this quote, “I’m very disappointed. But you know, God willing, I’ll go back there in July and I’ll pass it then. Or I’ll pass it the next time, or I’ll pass it when I’m 95.”

I remember loving him for that when it he said it, and it gives me chills today.

All of which led me to the title of this piece, the quote from Mr. Beckett.“Fail, fail again. Fail better.”

It’s become my summer rallying cry. How about you? Are you willing to join me on the barricades?

Frances Cole Jones