Toastmaster Speech

Title: Fail Better

Delivered on Wednesday, January 19th, 2018 (in Oshawa, Ontario)


“Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better”.

Samuel Beckett


Failure is such a natural act of being human, but you wouldn’t know it, based on how we run and hide from our mistakes.

Everything we do involves failure.

Everything we have ever done, that ever mattered, involved making a mistake.

I think as the new year begins, we need to get over ourselves a little, and learn to embrace our failures.

We need to fail better.

What do you think?

We were born helpless. Truly helpless.

It took a well-educated, extremely qualified doctor, to slaps us on our ass, because otherwise, we would not have had the wherewithal to take our very first breath.

As babies, whatever anyone put in front of us, we stuck in our mouth.

Big. Small. Sour. Sweet. Cold or warm. No matter. If we could reach it, we had a taste of it. Without fear. Without judgement. Without hesitation.

It went in our mouth.

We had so much to learn, so much fun, and failure was an acceptable risk.

No big deal. Like breathing.

Failure was fantastically fascinating.

We had no bladder control, and while our diapers helped a bit, someone had to be kind enough to wipe our posterior, every time we made a stinky.

Someone had to feed us. Burp us. Change us. Comfort us. Dress us. Move us. And put us to sleep.

We failed a lot.

We failed often.

We failed better.

It’s all we knew how to do. Mistakes were part of a whole, not the reason to give up, or never attempt something in the first place.


But what happened?

How did we forget how unquestionably happy we were, and in the midst of all that failure?

Sadly, we got educated.

We took in instruction to the contrary.

Our formal education happened.

We began to take guidance from our failures in the schoolyard, and we observed the consequences when others made mistakes.

It is there that we began to accept how wretched it is to fail.

How weak we are. How much we don’t know. How much we need. How much we have to change, in order to just fit in for a brief moment. So, we can pretend to be happy, and that everything will be fine.

But we were already happy.

We didn’t need to know what we know now.

So, what happened?

Schools were artificially inseminated in the industrial age.

They continue to be nothing more than an extension of the factory.

Schools were designed to create competent factory workers. I know a bit about this because I work in a modern one. A school system that has become a bit more modern and spacious these days, but at the core, still remains a sewer system for factory work.

Teachers college was called the ‘Normal School’.


Normal, as in right. As in what was needed at the time. What was desirable. What could be rewarded with a minimum wage.

Failure was abnormal. Making mistakes was wrong. Undesirable and punishable.

Is it any wonder we lost our happiness? Is it any wonder we have forgotten our childhood ability to fail?

To fail better?

But we can get it back.

We need to fail better.

A 30 second commercial during the SuperBowl in 2017 would have cost you $4.5 million dollars.

That’s $150,000 per second.

Money Magazine investigated the power and tangible reach of SuperBowl ads and they concluded that 90% of all the viewers had no intent of ever buying anything they saw in one of those commercials.


What a colossal failure and a waste of money.

But consider for a moment if your Doritos commercial did make an impact with only the mistaken, insignificant 10% of the viewers.

Let’s do the math.

About 115 million people watched the 2017 SuperBowl and so ten percent of that, would equal about 11.5 million people.

Now let’s assume that our Doritos commercial did the very least. Each person only bought one bag of our delicious Doritos, during the whole year, and they totally forgot we ever existed.

11.5 million people, buying a bag of potato chips, at $3 a bag, would give us a gross income of $34 million dollars. Once we figure out our practical costs, that’s still a lot of zeros.

Failure can have a huge payoff it seems.

The highest paid position player in Baseball earns between $20 and $30 million dollars a season and manage to have a batting average of above .300.

The minimum salary for a baseball player is $507,500.

On average the lowest paid position players have a batting average of .250.

As a way of comparison. If you went up to bat 1000 times and hit the ball 300 times, you would be signing many autographs and living the life. If you hit the ball 250 times, you may be looking for another job.

50 balls in play. 162 games in a season. That’s only one extra hit, every three games.

And each hit is worth $600,000.

You can double your salary, if you only hit one extra ball, one extra time.

So, let’s not hide from making mistakes, let’s learn to fail better.

We have to relearn how to fail. Get comfortable making mistakes. We need to embrace the quest to try and try again. Fail and fail again.

We have to become children again.

We have to learn how to fail better.

Fail better.

I’m too old. I’m too busy. I’ve tried that once. I’ve tried it a thousand times.

I’m not really athletic. I’m not artistic. I hate math. I’m a horrible speller. I can’t remember. I don’t like speaking in front of people.

Maybe when my kids are grown. When I retire. When I find some time. Maybe, after a bit more practice. Maybe someday. Maybe one day. When it feels right.

But what if they laugh at me?

And what if they do? Your attitude towards failure, is the biggest mistake of our life.

It’s not your actual failure that holds you back.

It’s your fear of failure.

So, let’s follow the advice of the wise, Irish playwright.

Ever tried.

Ever failed.

Try again.

Fail again.

Fail better.