Quotations about   attempt

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The man who has done his level best, and who is conscious that he has done his best, is a success.

Bertie Charles (B. C.) Forbes (1880-1954) American publisher
Forbes Epigrams (1922)
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Added on 23-Feb-22 | Last updated 23-Feb-22
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Three Failures denote uncommon strength. A weakling has not enough grit to fail thrice.

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Minna Antrim (1861-1950) American epigrammatist, writer
At the Sign of the Golden Calf (1905)
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Added on 15-Oct-21 | Last updated 15-Oct-21
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Who does the best his circumstance allows
Does well, acts nobly; angels could no more.

Edward Young (1683-1765) English poet
“The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality,” Part 2 “On Time, Death, and Friendship,” ll. 91-92 (1742–1745)
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Added on 26-Feb-21 | Last updated 26-Feb-21
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CHARLIE ANDERSON: I wanna say somethin’. I’ve known since the train that we weren’t liable to find him. It was just a hair of a chance that we got Sam back. I knew that. Maybe I knew even before we left home, but somehow I just had to try! And if we don’t try, we don’t do. And if we don’t do, why are we here on this earth?

James Lee Barrett (1929-1989) American author, producer, screenwriter
Shenandoah (1965)
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Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
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Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to “jump at de sun.” We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Dust Tracks on a Road, ch. 2 “My Folks” (1942)
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Added on 23-Aug-17 | Last updated 23-Aug-17
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I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.

plath-love-my-rejection-slips-wist_info-quote

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) American poet and author
(Attributed)
Added on 23-Jan-17 | Last updated 23-Jan-17
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Confidence doesn’t come from knowing you’re right — it comes from being okay with failing.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Mike Monteiro, Design Is a Job (2012)
Added on 12-May-16 | Last updated 12-May-16
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Better hazard once than be always in fear.

Fuller - hazard once - wist_info quote

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, # 906 (1732)
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Added on 21-Apr-16 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Scottish essayist, novelist, poet
Virginibus Puerisque, ch. 2 “Crabbed Age and Youth” (1881)
Added on 24-Feb-16 | Last updated 24-Feb-16
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YODA: No! Try not. Do — or do not. There is no try.

Lawrence Kasdan (b. 1949) American screenwriter, director, producer
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) [with George Lucas and Leigh Brackett]
Added on 5-Feb-16 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
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An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 2-Oct-15 | Last updated 2-Oct-15
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If she asked for the sun, he would climb the sky until he burned.

Daniel Swensen (b. c.1975) American writer
Orison (2014)
Added on 7-Sep-15 | Last updated 7-Sep-15
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The only time you don’t want to fail is the last time you try a thing.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
“Don’t Be Afraid to Stumble,” The Rotarian (Jan 1952)
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This was a favorite phrase of Kettering's, and many versions exist or are attributed.
  • "The only time you mustn't fail is the last time you try." (The Rotarian (May 1953))
  • "The only time you don't want to fail is the last time you try."
  • "The only time you can't afford to fail is the last time you try."
  • "The only time you don't fail is the last time you try something, and it works."
Added on 31-Jul-15 | Last updated 31-Jul-15
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Life is dull without a challenge. If your try fails, what does that matter? All life is failure in the end. The thing is to get some sport out of trying.

Francis Chichester (1901-1972) English aviator and sailor
Comment (1967)

After single-handedly circumnavigating the globe.
Added on 22-Jul-15 | Last updated 22-Jul-15
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‘Tis Perseverance that prevails.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #5110 (1732)
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Added on 1-Jul-15 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
Added on 18-May-15 | Last updated 18-May-15
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Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, “It can’t be done.”

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
You Learn By Living (1960)
Added on 22-Apr-15 | Last updated 22-Apr-15
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You have greatly ventured, but all must do so who would greatly win.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice, Act 1, sc. 1 (1821)
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Added on 18-Mar-15 | Last updated 18-Mar-15
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I had applied for the nuclear submarine program, and Admiral Rickover was interviewing me for the job. It was the first time I met Admiral Rickover, and we sat in a large room by ourselves for more than two hours, and he let me choose any subjects I wished to discuss. Very carefully, I chose those about which I knew most at the time, current events, seamanship, music, literature, naval tactics, electronics, gunnery and he began to ask me a series of questions of increasing difficulty. In each instance, he soon proved that I knew relatively little about the subject I had chosen.

He always looked right into my eyes, and he never smiled. I was saturated with cold sweat.

Finally, he asked a question and I thought I could redeem myself. He said, “How did you stand in your class at the Naval Academy?” Since I had completed my sophomore year at Georgia Tech before entering Annapolis as a plebe, I had done very well, and I swelled my chest with pride and answered, “Sir, I stood fifty-ninth in a class of 820!”

I sat back to wait for the congratulations, which never came. Instead, the question: “Did you do your best?” I started to say, “Yes, sir,” but I remembered who this was and recalled several of the many times at the Academy when I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy, and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, “No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.”

He looked at me for a long time, and then turned his chair around to end the interview. He asked one final question, which I have never been able to forget or to answer. He said, “Why not?”

I sat there for a while, shaken, and then slowly left the room.

Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) American politician, US President (1977-1981), Nobel laureate [James Earl Carter, Jr.]
Why Not The Best? (1975)
Added on 3-Feb-15 | Last updated 3-Feb-15
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When we watch a child trying to walk, we see its countless failures; its success are but few. If we had to limit our observation within a narrow space of time, the sight would be cruel. But we find that in spite of its repeated failures, there is an impetus of joy in the child which sustains it in its seemingly impossible task. We see it does not think of its falls so much as of its power to keep its balance though for only a moment.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Indian Bengali poet, philosopher [a.k.a. Rabi Thakur, Kabiguru]
Sadhana: The Realization of Life, ch. 3 (1913)
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Added on 20-Jan-15 | Last updated 20-Jan-15
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Talking of the danger of being mortified by rejection, when making approaches to the acquaintance of the great, I observed, “I am, however, generally for trying, ‘Nothing venture, nothing have.'” JOHNSON. “Very true, sir; but I have always been more afraid of failing, than hopeful of success.”

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (22 Sep 1777)
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In Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) See Heywood.
Added on 13-Jan-15 | Last updated 5-Jan-16
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What goals would you be setting for yourself if you knew you could not fail?

Robert H. Schuller (1926-2015) American televangelist, pastor, motivational speaker, author
You Can Become the Person You Want To Be, ch. 2 (1973)

Earliest version of this aphorism. Often attributed (without citation) to Eleanor Roosevelt. See here for more information. Variants:
  • "What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?"
  • "If you knew you cold not fail, what would you try?"
  • "What great things would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?"
Added on 22-Jul-14 | Last updated 22-Jul-14
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That is the question of the New Frontier. That is the choice our nation must make — a choice that lies not merely between two men or two parties, but between the public interest and private comfort — between national greatness and national decline — between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of “normalcy” — between determined dedication and creeping mediocrity. All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
“The New Frontier,” Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles (15 Jul 1960)
Added on 14-Jul-14 | Last updated 14-Jul-14
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Tilting at windmills hurts you more than the windmills.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough for Love (1973)
Added on 13-Jun-14 | Last updated 13-Jun-14
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Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, ch. 6 (1759)
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Added on 29-Mar-13 | Last updated 13-Oct-14
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For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) American-British poet, critic, playwright [Thomas Stearns Eliot]
“East Coker” (1940), Four Quartets (1943)
Added on 20-Nov-09 | Last updated 26-Apr-16
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Nought venter nought have.

John Heywood (1497?-1580?) English playwright and epigrammist
Proverbes, Part 1, ch. 11 (1564)
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More commonly rendered, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Added on 27-Apr-09 | Last updated 13-Jul-20
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man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed — I well know. For it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself.

Georges Clemenceau
Georges Clemenceau (1841–1929) French statesman, physician, journalist
Conversation wth Jean Martet (1 Jun 1928)

In J. Martet, Clemenceau, The Events of His Life as Told by Himself to His Former Secretary, Jean Martet, ch. 30 (1930) [tr. M. Waldman]
Added on 11-Mar-09 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) American clergyman and author
“I Am Only One”
Added on 24-Oct-08 | Last updated 10-Mar-15
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Not failure, but low aim, is crime.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
“For an Autograph,” st. 5 (1868)
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Added on 11-Sep-07 | Last updated 16-Aug-19
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I have tried my best to give the nation everything I had in me. There are probably a million people who could have done the job better than I did it, but I had the job and I had to do it, and I always quote an epitaph on a tombstone in Tombstone, Ariz.: “Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damnedest.”

Harry S Truman (1884-1972) US President (1945-1953)
Time, “The Presidency: The Answer Man” (28 Apr. 1952)

Speaking in Winslow, AZ (15 Jun 1948), Truman said, "You know, the greatest epitaph in the country is here in Arizona. It’s in Tombstone, Ariz., and this epitaph says, 'Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damndest.' I think that is the greatest epitaph a man could have."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jun-16
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My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success. She said that achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others, and that’s nice too, but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about the success.

Helen Hayes (1900-1993) American actress
Reader’s Digest (1958)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Jun-17
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There are two great rules in life, the one general and the other particular. The first is that every one can in the end get what he wants if he only tries. This is the general rule. The particular rule is that every individual is more or less of an exception to the general rule.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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The baby rises to its feet, takes a step, is overcome with triumph and joy — and falls flat on its face. It is a pattern for all that is to come! But learn from the bewildered baby. Lurch to your feet again. You’ll make the sofa in the end.

Pamela Brown (1924-1989) British writer, actress, television producer
The Swish of the Curtain (1938)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Jul-17
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In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American philosopher and writer
Walden, “Economy” (1854)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Jul-17
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There is no greater mistake than to try to leap an abyss in two jumps.

David Lloyd George (1863-1945) Welsh politician, statesman, UK Prime Minister (1916-22)
War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, Vol. 2, ch. 24 (1933)

Not original with Lloyd George, but usually attributed to him. For more information, see here. Variants:
  • "Don’t be afraid to take a big step. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps."
  • "The most dangerous thing in the world is to leap a chasm in two jumps."
  • "Anything can be achieved in small, deliberate steps. But there are times you need the courage to take a great leap; you can't cross a chasm in two small jumps."
  • "There is nothing more dangerous than to leap a chasm in two jumps."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 5-May-16
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Our doubts are traitors
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Measure for Measure, Act 1, sc. 4, l. 85ff [Lucio] (1604)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Jun-22
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For there is no comparison between that which we may lose by not trying and by not succeeding; since by not trying we throw away the chance of an immense good; by not succeeding we only incur the loss of a little human labour. But as it is, it appears to me from what has been said, and also from what has been left unsaid, that there is hope enough and to spare, not only to make a bold man try, but also to make a sober-minded and wise man believe.

[Non enim res pari periculo non tentatur, et no succedit; cum in illo ingentis boni, in hoc exiguae humanae operae, jactura vertatur. Verum ex dictis, atque etiam ex non dictis, visum est nobis spei abunde subesse, non tantum homini strenuo ad experiendum, sed etiam prudenti et sobrio ad credendum.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Instauratio Magna, Part 2 “Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism # 114 (1620) [tr. Spedding (1858)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

For the risk attending want of success is not to be compared with that of neglecting the attempt; the former is attended with the loss of a little human labour, the latter with that of an immense benefit. For these and other reasons, it appears to us that there is abundant ground to hope, and to induce not only those who are sanguine to make experiment, but even those who are cautious and sober to give their assent.
[tr. Wood (1831)]

For it is not a case where there is an equal risk in not trying and not succeeding; since in the former instance we risk a huge advantage; in the latter a little human labour is thrown away. But from what has been said, and also from what has not been said, it seems to us that there is abundant ground of hope, not only to justify a stout-hearted man in trying, but even a prodent and sober man in believing.
[tr. Johnson (1859)]

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Mar-22
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