If At First You Don’t Succeed

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” is an old adage with which we’re all familiar. As with most adages, there’s an element of truth in it. There are also aspects that make the adage seem easier to employ than it is. 

There are a number of factors that influence our ability to “try, try again.” Key among them are desire, resilience and confidence. Let’s explore each of these in greater detail.


Over the years I noticed that what determines a person’s success in any endeavor is the level of their desire. One of the reasons that so many dreams go unfulfilled is that the person does not desire the dream enough to do what’s necessary to make it a reality.

It’s not that they aren’t capable, aren’t talented enough, or don’t possess the resources they need, it’s simply that they don’t want the dream enough to do the work. If their desire were stronger, they would not believe themselves incapable, lacking talent or unable to acquire needed resources.


To me, resilience is a matter of perspective. The most resilient among us view challenges as learning opportunities. The least resilient view them as obstacles. Their attitude to obstacles ranges from “Life isn’t fair” to “Why does everything have to be so hard” to “The whole world is working against me.”

Desires of the most resilient aren’t affected by challenges. The desire of the least resilient wanes quickly, often resulting in abandoned dreams.


People who are confident in their abilities find it easier to remain resilient. To them, challenges are just a natural part of life. Dealing effectively with challenges affords them the joy of success and greater excitement about what the future holds.

Less confident people are less resilient because each challenge leaves them questioning their abilities. Instead of focusing on what they learned, they nurture doubts about their abilities. It’s tough to try, try again when you doubt that you’ll be successful. Indeed, that mindset virtually assures that you won’t. Thus, reinforcing beliefs that you are inept and undeserving. 

It’s easy to see how these elements determine whether try, try again is easy, or overwhelming to the point that the dream is abandoned.

For you

When your early attempts don’t produce the results you desire, reevaluate how important what you’re pursuing is to you. Use the following questions to guide you in your evaluation.

  • Given what I need to do to be successful, using a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being high, how willing am I to do the work?
  • Is my desire waning?
  • How am I viewing obstacles…as learning opportunities or as a victim?
  • Do I believe I can accomplish anything I desire?

These questions will help you evaluate whether your desire, resilience and confidence are high enough to make your dreams a reality.

If your desire wanes because the effort required seems inordinately high given the reward you envision, then let go of this dream. The trade off, and there’s always a trade off, isn’t worth it to you. That’s okay. The right thing to do is forgo this dream. We’ve all had opportunities that were intriguing only to find later that what they required of us didn’t fit with what we want in life.

If you’re answers to the questions above indicate a lack of resilience, you’ll know that it’s a matter of changing the way you look at challenges. Each morning, upon rising, remind yourself that you’re going to view challenges as learning opportunities. Your resilience will be there to support your desire.

When you doubt your abilities, realize that learning is an iterative process. We try things, learn something new, try again and learn even more, until we finally get all the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place and enjoy the success we desire. 

To assure that you remain confident at all times, each morning recall the challenges you faced when you had no background or experience. Note that you found a way to deal effectively with that challenge. By reminding yourself daily that you’ve never failed to deal with anything life has sent you, you’ll remain confident in your ability to deal with all future challenges. That’s how you train your mind to be confident in any and all situations you face.

For our kids

When kids are ready to give up, especially when it’s early in the process, ask them:

  • Does your dream no longer hold any appeal for you? If so, why not?
  • How are you viewing the challenges you’re facing? As learning opportunities or bad luck?
  • Do you believe that you can accomplish anything you desire?

As you move your child from the emotional reaction of disappointment to the less emotional, more objective evaluation of their situation. In doing so, you teach them the importance of the three elements of success: desire, resilience and confidence.

Feel free to share this blog with those you feel would benefit from this message. It’s an easy way to say “I love you. I’m thinking of you.”

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share you wisdom in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link) (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Prenatt

    Dale, As always great insights! Can you comment on how the fear of failure seems to hold people back and what can be done to overcome the emotion?

    Thanks for all that you do to help our children (and also us big children)

    • Dale Furtwengler


      Sorry for the delayed response. Just got back from vacation. To help people allay their doubts and fears I simply ask them “When in your life have you faced a situation in which you’ve had no background or experience and failed to produce a positive result?” The response I get is always the same “Never.” My follow up question is “If you’ve never failed, then why would you be concerned about failing this time?” Fear causes us to overlook successes we have. With these questions I get people to realize how effective they are in dealing with anything that comes their way. Thanks for another insightful question, Bill.

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