Sometimes all it takes to stop us in our tracks is one failure. Sometimes the humiliation of defeat can be such that we are determined never to put ourselves out there again.

We of course have been chanting the mantra “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again” for years, but I bet, like me, you don’t really believe it!!

I know that personally I have faced challenges that I have failed to overcome, and goals that I have failed to achieve. I knew that perseverance often can overcome any obstacle, and I may have tried again … once or twice; and when that didn’t achieve the desired outcome I stopped trying and did something else. All the time feeling frustrated at my lack of success.

Over the weekend I met a number of people who have tried and failed. It was the District Convention of the Toastmasters Organisation, here in Queensland. As well as the business session; which was uncommonly well-run, (Uncommonly, because so many business sessions are a disaster!!) the annual district speech contests were held.

Here, members of the organisation who have competed and won their contests through club, area and division levels foregathered to put themselves up against the judges to find just one winner.

I spoke to some of them prior to the competition and was surprised that many of them had achieved a place in the district final on a number of previous occasions. “Why do you keep competing?” I asked. Keith told me that he intended to keep competing until he achieved his ultimate goal – to become the district winner.

Jock Elliott, who has won the district final on at least eight occasions, also told me that “He learned more from the losing than he did from the winning” and as I have also lost more times than I have ever won, I can concur.

Often it is not our successes that stretch us and make us grow; it is the times we fail. Learning to cope with our failures can be hard; losing seems so final … and so personal. Learning to analyse our performance to find out just what went wrong, and having the wisdom to learn from that is the true test of a winner.

Trish and I are both members of Toastmasters International, and have been for many years (It keeps our skills sharp!) and about 2001 she started on her ambition to be elected to the position of District Governor for Queensland, Northern New South Wales and the Northern Territory. At first she failed to be elected. However, not taking this as a personal affront, she analysed what the situation needed and set to work to implement that.

It took sheer determination, hard work and some more failures along the way, but in 2006 she was welcomed in by the members as their District Governor. At any step in that journey Trish could have given up and said that it was too hard. At any step she could have decided that she was never going to achieve her goal and changed direction. But she had a real belief that she had something to offer, and a grim determination to succeed. However it was the lessons that she took from the failures that provided the basis for that success. She never gave up.

Another person I met at the conference also knows about the value in failure, and that was Doctor John Parker, also known as the poetry doctor. I don’t have time to extol all his virtues and give a potted biography so go and check out the website of this extraordinary man at and here, to support my views on the need for determination is one of his poems that fits in beautifully with my theme.

Surprisingly, it is called Never Give Up :

One day two frogs fell into a bowl of cream.
They called for help but despite their screams
No-one came to help their plight.
One just despaired and gave up life’s fight,
Slowly succumbing to his body so tired,

Sinking to the bottom and thus, expired.

But the other frog was committed to life.
He swam and swam and despite the strife.
Backwards and forwards he struggled and turned,
Not knowing that cream to butter churned.
The butter firmed the layers on top
On which he could crawl and then he could hop.

He hopped to safety and great fame,
For, from his exploits, a moral came.
That when it seems that all is bleak,
Just mark time, time to seek
Another way out or wait for back-up.
Put trust in life and never give up.

Thank you Dr John, I couldn’t put it better myself!!

Michele @ Trischel

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