Somewhere, back in the early 1800’s, Thomas Palmer, in an effort to encourage American schoolchildren to do their homework, he wrote in his teacher’s manual, “’Tis a lesson you should heed, try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Shortly after that, Edward Hickson put the phrase in his ‘Moral Song’ and the rest is history, as they say.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But, what about when we do succeed? What then?
When is success? Is it that moment we take our first step, after falling down a thousand times? I hope not, because if we were satisfied with that, we’d all be walking around pretty awkwardly.
I earned my first black belt in 1985 and that was the same year, The Protector came out with Jackie Chan and Danny Aiello. Great movie. When it came out on VHS, I rented it over and over. In the massage parlor fight scene, we get to see Danny Aiello in his underwear. That’s why we have fast-forward.
Anyways, as Jackie Chan is fighting off numerous attackers, he does this thing. This is where pause and rewind come in. I pressed rewind and pause so many times, I think I overheated my parents’ VCR.
He runs into a corner, jumps up, placing his feet, one on each wall, and jumps off the corner, spinning in the air to roundhouse kick his attacker. WTF?!
For months, I arrived at the dojo early to practice this. It was impossible. At first. Then it was awkward. For weeks, it was awkward. Then, one day I actually executed the roundhouse kick. It was ugly, but at that moment, I realized it was possible. I can do this. Kept going. Eventually, I got it. It was just something I had to do and I was obsessed.
So, when did I succeed? Was it that first time I awkwardly did it? Was it when I got good at it?
Actually, it was when I paused the video for the first time. It was the rewinding, pausing, fast-forwarding. It was that first time in the dojo, jumping into a cornered wall and throwing my body around. It was in the hundreds of tries and failures. It was the mindset. The not giving up. The practice. The eventual proficiency and onward.
Success is not a destination. It’s not a trophy. It’s not perfection of an asana. It’s not a black belt or a place we arrive at and then chill, because we “made it”.
Success is in the doing. It’s a way of being.
When you succeed, try, try again.
Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash