If At First You Don’t succeed…Then quit

Consider re-writing your success software

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”  W. C. Fields

The flight to Faro was particularly bumpy. High above the Bay of Biscay we were bouncing around like a table tennis ball in a Jacuzzi. At one point I was tempted to email the Bacardi factory in Cuba and ask them to put on a 3rdshift. By the time this plane landed, the worldwide stock of rum would be well down!

Flash Cards: To take my mind off dying, I was busily reading flash cards – trying to master Portuguese phrases beyond  ‘Bom Dia’ (Good Day). It had been a long and brutal slog. Night classes in Marino and Clontarf for 3 years. Practice lunches with other learners, wrestling with masculine and feminine nouns over skinny lattes. Twisting your tongue around the Russian-sounding pronunciations.

Keep Going: I definitely wasn’t enjoying it but was determined not to quit. Something about giving up communicates ‘loser’ and I’m programmed to follow through. Incorrectly programmed in this case. So, what were the ‘facts’? I definitely wasn’t enjoying learning this language. I never use it. Where we go in Portugal (the Algarve) almost everyone speaks English. So, other than reading some road signs and being polite/respectful about the local culture – this had no practical usefulness.   But, I started and was determined to finish, on some pre-recorded mission to succeed. For what? To impress who? Because, when I really thought about it, that was the psychological payoff. Impress the hell out of someone because I could read the menu in Portuguese. Converse with a local waitress around the fact that the weather was exceptionally hot or say ‘good afternoon’ at the correct time of the day. Oh, take a bow!

Throw it Out: In thinking about some of this old ‘programmed stuff’ about being successful, I realized that it was written for me in childhood. Most of it had served me well. But it was now time to grow up. To decide what I wanted to do. To disallow my life being steered by ‘train tracks’ about stickability that were laid when I was a teenager.

Take Control: It’s the same for all of us.  We are in charge now and can do what we want. If that’s learning something new – great.  Like that Bon Jovi song that I’ve wanted to sing for ages but can’t seem to find the time to learn properly. Now you’re talking. Move over Portuguese. From now on, I’m doing stuff I want to do.


PS Lighter Notes…

Resignation Letter:“I’m quitting to pursue my dream of not working here”

Q:What’s the difference between the 1960’s and the 2000’s?

A: In the 2000’s, a guy goes into a chemist shop and shouts, “Give me a box of condoms!” … and whispers to the shop assistant: “Oh, and slip in a packet of cigarettes, too.”

Q: Why did the can crusher quit his job?

A: Because it was soda pressing.

I should have known I’d never last as a deep-sea diving instructor. I’m no good under pressure.

OCD Sufferers. Their days are numbered.

Past, Present and Future walked into a bar. It was tense!

Check our website http://www.tandemconsulting.ie or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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2 Responses to If At First You Don’t succeed…Then quit

  1. I am so with you on this, Paul. I’ve recently woken up to exactly the same point: I’ve been chasing stuff in the future (to “achieve” things) whilst at the same time letting the present pass me by. Like most of us, all too sadly. In your case you were woken up by a bumpy flight. In mine, it took the sudden and unexpected passing of my wife 6 months ago to wake me up. It’s been a hard lesson to swallow, but truly life changing (for the better).

    I have realised that the early part of my life I was constantly striving for success in order to live out my parents’ dream (scholarships, competitions, awards). Then I was fully programmed to keep at it. The more I succeeded the more my need for success grew, and alongside it my ego. That’s the biggest block to all this: our freakin egos.

    Inspired by Pema Chodron’s fantastic book “when things fall apart”, I am going to strive towards “egolessness”. This will mean stopping chasing new business (it will look after itself), reading literature instead of business books (surely I know enough to get my by after 20 years doing this stuff – and meanwhile I get to read Tolstoy at last), deferring the writing of my next book (I have only just published my first, FFS!), and more time walking the dog, building relationships with people, and being actively inactive. I have thrown away my list of OBJECTIVES, which are all set in the future, and I aim as best I can after 60 years of living in the future, to live in the now.

    I wrote an article about what I had to do to come to this conclusion only last week. It’s called “For heaven’s sake, just STOP!” and is on my website (www.reallearningforachange.com).

    Have you decided what are going to do with all that spare time now you don’t have to learn a new language?

    Thank for another great and thought provoking article.

  2. Thanks Michael for the thoughtful (as always) reply. I was saddened to hear the news about your wife. It must be a brutal adjustment. It’s great that you are able to use this time as a ‘springboard’ to reframe your thinking. I’m pretty sure that it hasn’t been anything like that simple – but the essence of your note was how to begin moving forward. I concur with almost everything you said – except I might swop Tolstoy for some easier to read stuff! Warm Regards – Paul

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