Fail Better

“If at first you don’t succeed”

When I was 18, I lived with a friend who had this tattooed around his wrist and although this phrase may be a little cliché nowadays, my intuition says the premise underlying it, is of huge relevance and importance for success in today’s world.

My friend was a professional snowboarder and told us the words imprinted on his wrist referred directly to the idea of not giving up when repeatedly hitting a jump and attempting to land a new trick. “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”.

Indeed in any extreme sport, picking yourself up and trying again is so deeply embedded in the culture.

“Falling is so integrated in to us … falling becomes normal and picking yourself up becomes normal”

That’s a quote from legendary skateboarder Rodney Mullen and in several interviews he discusses how in the ‘real world’, this facet of extreme sports mentality is such a powerful mindset to have.

In the short time I’ve been running a business, I’ve seen firsthand how easy it is to get discouraged when you fail. I’ve lost count of the number of times that on days when I’ve metaphorically fallen down and failed, I’ve stopped and questioned if I even want to pick myself up and try again.

When it all goes wrong, the idea of actually getting it right seems an absolute impossibility.

So nowadays when I fail, I don’t try to get it right. I try to fail better.

I forget the video in which I first heard this idea, but to me these two words perfectly capture the mission statement of both the business owner and extreme sports athlete alike and I hope they can be a help to you in whatever you’re working towards in life.

Because let’s be honest, if you get a 0% on a test and then try it again hoping you’ll score 100%, you’re not doing yourself any favours. If you think in this way, it’s unsurprising that quitting will be the most attractive option.

But if you revise for an hour and try again, you might just be able to get 1%.

Sure you’ve failed, but you’ve failed better.

Keep working at it and percent by percent you can get to 100.

So this is the process I work on these days. Looking at what’s not working, identifying what you need to do to improve and then doing that. Most of all, just like an extreme sports athlete, you can’t get dismayed, you can’t think negative thoughts. Don’t try to get 100%, just try again and try to fail better.

Getting to the top of the mountain is hard, it’s even harder when you expect to do it one step.

So remember, try to fail better and I wish you every success.



Rodney Mullen “A Beautiful Mind” Interview —

Jack Tompkins