Monday, 21 January 2008

Dealing with failure

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
Samuel Beckett

I think from the time we're young, we're warned NOT to fail. Whether it's unspoken, as in rewards for A's, while C's, D's and F's go unmentioned, or clear and overt with shouts, threats or put-down's, the message comes across.

Succeed, and you are good. Lovable. Worthy.

Fail, and the world begins to look like Caspar Friedrich's painting* above...dark, threatening, maybe even hopeless. We BECOME failures, and wear our mistakes as labels.

That's why Beckett's quote jumped out at me.

It was not yet another empty platitude, telling us that success awaits our efforts. No, he acknowledges that the result of trying again may be to fail again.

But in an amazing bit insight, he give two kinds of advice. First, never mind the failure. What? Fail without BEING a failure? Is that possible? Our culture would say no, but is it right?

The second bit of advice is even more radical. When you fail again, "Fail better."

I would love to hear what you think he means by that. How can we "Fail better."? I have some ideas, but I would like to see what you think.

Is his advice good? Is it healthy? Let me know your ideas?

*Man and Woman Observing the Moon, 1824, Berlin


otowi said...

Yes it is good advice. How many things I have been afraid to do because I felt I would not be instantly good at it, and that to me was failure?

Will Pow said...

I would guess that he was telling us to care about how we do things...

Anonymous said...

I seem to have learned a lot from failing. Maybe "fail better" equates to "learn more".

Ed said...

After reading this post I am reminded of a scripture in the old testament that says,"The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord,and though he fall, he will not be utterly cast down for the Lord upholds him in His hand". Someone once said that failure is only coming one step closer to sucess!
Grace and Peace,

Anonymous said...

just came across this while trying to remember who said this: i think beckett's point is that success does not exist - reconciliation with reality is an impossibility. it's an invitation to acknowledge the individual's incapacity to know anything but him/herself, without accepting it. which is ironic because such an acknowledgment suggests that objective truths are discoverable...

good advice for life? more a consolation i think.