Fail Better

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

–Samuel Beckett

This is about the most ADHD mantra I’ve ever come across. I have no idea if Samuel Beckett had ADHD, but I do, and this is how I live my life. I try things. I fail at them. I try again and fail again. I fail better each time until I succeed, or until I realize that I have no need to try again. Sometimes, you just outgrow things. Sometimes things aren’t what you thought they’d be and no matter how you try, you can’t make them be what you want, so you lay them gently down and walk away. This is different from giving up.

For the first 30 or so years of my life I only paid attention to the “Ever tried. Ever failed” part. I tried a lot of things, but if I didn’t succeed on the first try, I gave up and considered myself a failure. I wasn’t smart enough or strong enough for those things, I thought.

Something clicked when I was about thirty-three. I found my people. I found them on the Internet, in a writer’s group and a mother’s group, and I’ve never looked back. Those people taught me the next two parts of Mr. Beckett’s sentiment. “No matter. Try again.” The “try again” part was much easier to learn than the “no matter” part. I cannot stress enough how important it is to find your people. I firmly believe you need to have your support group, your people, the ones who love you for all your strengths and all your weaknesses, in order to really embrace the “no matter” part of the above mantra. Not minding repeated failure is almost impossible to do on your own.

Not that the “try again” part was a breeze. It was not. It can be exhausting to try again. Especially if you fail again. And try and fail and try and fail and try and fail.

When I was 51, I was diagnosed with ADHD, after a half century of trying and failing at so many, many things. Because of the people I had found, I was still getting up and trying again, no matter how many times I got knocked down. And now, with the knowledge that my brain works a bit differently, and with tools to help me do things in a way that works with my kind of brain, I began to fail better.

Failing better is the trick. To learn something in each try.

And, in the 13 years since, I have tried so many things without reservation. Some things worked out. Others did not. Some things were everything I thought they’d be. Others were not. I put some things down and picked up others. I’ve gotten happier and happier in my life, which has, frankly, surprised me.

I can honestly recommend Samuel Beckett’s mantra. Do it. Embrace every word of it.

This pep talk I’ve just given is for anyone who needs to hear it.

It’s also for me.

I published a book in January of 2023. I’m hesitating and avoiding working on the second book. I didn’t realize the second would be harder than the first. But, of course it is. The point of the first was to do it. The point of the second is to improve. And I know so much more now, so my standards are higher. So, I’m hemming and hawing. Which is not the way to go about this.

I need to ever try and ever fail. I need to know the failure doesn’t matter. I need to try again and fail again and fail better.

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