Monday, 6 June 2011

A Useful Philosophy

I read this somewhere sometime last week. I wish I could remember who said it - I think it might have been an American stateman. Anyway, what he said was, 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again. And then give up. No sense being a damn fool about it.'

I thought these very wise words indeed. How often do we start something, and keep going, going, going at it because it's what we were brought up to do? Even though we reach a point when our heart is telling us 'STOP!' but is being marginally out-shouted by our head?

Giving up smacks of failure, that's the thing. Giving up means having to explain yourself to people, who, when they are used to you succeeding, get flummoxed and confused, and look at you like you're no longer the person they thought you were.

'Don't give up!' people say, thinking they are sounding encouraging when all they are (inadvertently) doing is piling on the pressure even more, the pressure that would be so easily alleviated by 'giving up.' Okay, I know a certain amount of stress is supposed to be good for you - keeps the old 'fight or flight' mechanism up to scratch, but really, who needs stress beyond that certain amount? Heroes and martyrs, maybe, but not us, not people like you and me.

Admittedly, some people do give up too quickly, too easily. I know this because I'm a teacher and I work with young people, and I won't tolerate giving up until they've at least 'had a go and then another just for luck.' Or picked up a pen. There's a fine line between trying too hard and not trying enough. I call it 'trying your best.'

Before I discovered the wise words above, my favourite saying about giving up was 'Don't give up - just lose interest.' I think it works. Sometimes you start something and you think, 'This is a good idea. I'll give this a go.' And as you progress, and learn and circumstances gather or disperse, you may suddenly think, 'Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all.' Of course, you then have to make sure you tell yourself (and others) that you were wrong about your original idea/crazy plan to conquer the world. Which can be a bummer if you thought it was really WAS great idea, and you banged on about it a bit too much. But all this is good. This means you are human. And not Mary Poppins.

Ultimately, it is okay to give up. Giving up means you haven't failed. Au contraire, mon brave, it means you were feisty enough to take a plunge into the unknown in the first place and you've probably learnt something into the bargain, which is always a good thing and definitely a transferable skill.

But please ignore these words if they apply to moving a sofa through a door way and you are stuck on one side, and the toilet facilities are stuck on the other. Giving up then would just be plain crazy.


Moira said...

Very wise and thoughtful comments...
Like my experience of exercise; painful and tedious. I gave up and became much happier.
I just need to convince myself that I CAN use this in other situations!

Anonymous said...

I suppose it's possible that they pinched it from somewhere else, but 'If at first you don't succeed, give up,' is a Homer Simpson quote. Very much the American statesman!!

Denise said...

You're right, Moira. I think, after all, that the greatest of human needs after love is happiness. And I'm right behind you on the exercise front! (Crazy bops around the kitchen excepted!)

Homer Simpson???? I think not!