Folk speech
Proverbs

If at first you don’t succeed…

If At first you don’t succeed…

 

The common proverb reads, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”. This proverb suggests that failing should not mean defeat—if you do not succeed the first time, a second [and maybe even third and fourth] attempt should be made. It speaks to perseverance and determination. Failure is just a lesson. One can learn from the lesson and turn failure into success. Never accept defeat after only one attempt. If the Wright brothers had given up after their first attempt, we may have never learned to fly.

 

Haley, my informant, is an olympic diver whose success really embodies this proverb. Diving is a sport that is all about making mistake, learning from your mistakes, and, most importantly, never being afraid to do a dive again after it has gone awry. Haley dives from the 10 meter platform–an event that includes a great deal of risk. Is she does a dive incorrectly she could face hospitalization. However, even when she has landed flat on her stomach or on her back from 33 feet in the air, she never gave up. She never accepted defeat even when she felt that the water was beating her and she wasn’t quite grasping the correct technique.

 

Annotated:

Although the traditional proverb reads, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”, I am citing the first episode—“Lessons”—of the television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which she twists the proverb to fit her current situation. While fighting phantom-like projections of dead people from her past, Buffy realizes that she must get to a door that the three phantoms are conveniently blocking. When she tries to fight her way through them the first time she fails and is beaten back. The second time, she leaps over them as they charge at her and she makes it to the door. As she does this she utters, “if at first you don’t succeed, cheat!”

 

Even though she failed the first time to make it past the phantoms she did not give up. She tried a second time and was successful. Her success embodies what the original proverb promotes: don’t give up. However, rather than taking the more difficult route—fighting her way through again—she decides to avert this struggle once more by “cheating” and jumping over them.

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