top of page

Try//Fail//Try Again

There are days when the simplest of things require all the willpower and strength you can muster. Wake up, get out of bed, and then move on to the day's demands.

It's nothing new. It's your routine.

But sometimes, accomplishing the daily tasks requires everything you've got.

Then there are those other days. Those glorious, seldom, serendipitous days. On this kind of day, your alarm clock doesn't wake you up. Your body does. Your task list doesn't motivate you. Your intrinsic desire to be productive does.

Here's the real kicker, though. That good day I just mentioned?

Yea, we don't remember that one.

We internalize the worst of things. The one nasty bit of feedback we get on our performance. The piece of critique that cut just a little too close to the heart, even though there may have been a mountain of praise heaped onto us just prior.

Even worse, there certainly are seasons--some longer than others--where the bad days outweigh the good far and away, paired with our neat little tendency to forsake the savoring of the good days and dwell upon the bad.

In short, we take little time to celebrate our successes and excessively flog ourselves for failures.

Only one little trick I've found works to combat this for myself. It's nothing novel, and nothing that hasn't been said before or that won't be said tens of hundreds of thousands of times again.

Take the bad, and then turn it for good.

Flip the failure on its head.

Fail upward.

What can be learned from that moment when you lost your cool and said the wrong thing? Or perhaps you didn't say anything at all when someone you care about desperately needed to hear something, anything but your cold silence.

What can be gleaned from the hours of futile work that came to nothing? Either because of things out of your control, like a project getting scrapped or drastically changed or that big event canceled?

Or perhaps you just needed to get some objectively bad words out onto the page to clear the way for the good and the great ones yet to come.

The reality is we all try, fail, and fail again. Until we don't.

I learned something last night while practicing my short game wielding the ridiculous red flamingo club that came with Gator Golf, a nostalgic Christmas present as much for me as it was for our girls this year. After hitting a flimsy blue plastic ball about a dozen times down our vinyl tile floor hallway, trying and failing to make it into the snide cheery maw of that smarmy green reptile, I was getting about ready to test the durability of his plastic hide.

Then, I realized something.

I was in the middle of a "try-fail cycle."

The try-fail cycle is a literary convention found in almost any story. The hero or protagonist undergoes a trial or tries to achieve something but fails first at first. Usually more than once, and often spectacularly.

There are four possible outcomes in a try-fail cycle.

1) Yes

2) Yes, BUT

3) No

4) No, AND

In my case regarding my bout with gator golf, my "No, AND" was when I followed through confidently with my flamingo beak-ended plastic club only to find the ball hugging our scuffed floorboards and riding along the quarter round like the bumpers in a kiddie bowling lane, and on it rolled into my daughter's bedroom where it was squarely lodged out of reach beneath her pink flowery bed, forcing me into the oh so dignified position of a 34-year-old man on his hands and knees, batting around a toy golf club while trying not to get scratched by an ornery young cat joining in on the pageantry.

"No" was pretty much every other attempt. There's a reason I don't play real golf. Although maybe this is some Mr. Miagai "wax on wax off" miracle training that will pay dividends.

"Yes, BUT" was when I sunk the ball into the beast's jaw, and the satisfying ping, its spring-loaded tail shooting the ball in the air punctuated the shot. However, no one was looking. I did hiss out a "Yesss" and a Tiger-like arm pump.

Finally, came the definitive "Yes." My two girls, 3 and 5, started watching with rapt anticipation. After three additional attempts, the triumphant moment of the gator eating plastic and shooting it out the other end was met with giddy screams of glee.

All of that is so simple; it's stupid. There were many failed attempts, but I got a little better after each. I found a way to learn from it and adjust for next time. Or if you like, I got out all the "bad swings" to make way for the perfected ones. Not unlike how I strive to approach writing and how anyone can, and I believe should come to anything worth doing. It's not easy to remind yourself that failing is ordinary and its necessary. It doesn't feel good, but it makes you and the work you're doing better.

Because if it's worth doing and you care about it, you owe it to yourself and the work to fail.

Fail hard. Critically fail.

Then, and only then, you might see your own "Yes" play out like the triumph at the end of a hero's journey.

47 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page