“You try, you fail. You try, you fail. But the only true failure is when you stop trying. …Try again.”
– Madame Leota, The Haunted Mansion
Everybody knows what it is to fail. Almost everyone learns, sooner or later, what it is to fail when the stakes are high, and real, and important. Not everyone learns what to do after such a failure.
The the Haunted Mansion movie, Eddie Murphy’s character, one Jim Evers, has all of his mistakes as a husband and father thrown in his face. He only meant it for the best, but, however inadvertently, those mistakes have brought him and his family to a place where they are at immediate risk of losing each other forever. As the danger unfolds, he fights furiously to save his loved ones and escape, but his efforts are in vain. Broken by failure and by guilt, he is languishing in misery, when Madame Leota comes and gets him back on his feet.
When he tries once more, trying something a little different this time and holding nothing back, his efforts meet with success, and his family is saved, alongside a number of other innocent souls.
Now, of course, it doesn’t usually work out quite that neatly and quickly in real life. Indeed, sometimes we fail again, and we have to pick ourselves back up again. But as long as we are alive, we can keep trying.
Not necessarily trying the same thing, mind you. Eventually, one must concede defeats in certain areas if one is ever to achieve victory overall. If something consistently does not work, then one must try something else.
To persist in trying something that does not work, again and again, in the hopes of some different result, is not only useless, it is the very definition of insanity.
You know what consistently does not work? Giving up.
Falling down into a little pool of self-pity and despair may be a natural reaction after a devastating defeat, but nothing ever gets done by the people who stay there. No, great things, small and large, are accomplished by those who pull themselves out of the rut and try again.
Failure may still be possible – in fact, failure is always possible – but success never comes to those who stop trying.
So, when you are feeling down and out, when you have tried your hardest and still failed, I hope you will remember these two words, from a spooky kids’ movie: