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Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  2,171 ratings  ·  280 reviews
When her granddaughter was accepted to Naropa University, the celebrated author Pema Chödrön promised that she’d speak at the commencement ceremony. Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better contains the wisdom shared on that day.

“What do we do when life doesn’t go the way we hoped?” begins Pema “We say, ‘I’m a failure.” But what if failing wasn’t just “okay,” but the most direct way
Published September 1st 2015 by Sounds True
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  2,171 ratings  ·  280 reviews

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Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-reads
It has been a while since I read anything by Pema Chodron. I had forgotten how beautifully she writes. Her words are clear, concise and hopeful. I found this piece to be encouraging: make mistakes, hold them in your heart, learn and grow from them.

An easy read, but one to savour.
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From my review on Zezee with Books:

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better is a commencement speech given by Pema Chödrön, an American Buddhist nun, at her granddaughter’s graduation from the University of Boulder, Colorado back in 2014. The speech is followed by an interview with Chödrön that’s just as insightful if you’re open to the message. Chödrön’s message on embracing failure centers on a quote from the poet Samuel Beckett:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Stephen Simpson
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Very disappointing. In the version I read, there was a great deal of "white space", and the actual text itself probably could have fit on maybe 20 pages. Not only that, the contents themselves were vague and lacked much insight. There really wasn't much of any use here about surviving/"processing" failure, learning from it, and accepting it as an inevitable part of the growth process.

Author JK Rowling gave a commencement address (at Harvard, I believe) that is a far better discussion of the valu
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
We don't like to think about failure - we sweep it under the rug, hide it away, and are often ashamed. Yet, everyone has failed at something. Chodron, in her remarkable style, expounds on this fact. The book includes a commencement speech that she delivered at her granddaughter's university graduation, and a thoughtful and open interview about her own failures and how she frames them in the context of her life. ...more
Mindy Kannon
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: inspirational
I love everything this woman writes. Pema Chodron was invited to give the commencement address to the 2014 graduating class of the Naropa University in Boulder Colorado. This book is that speech followed by a question and answer session. The things she says are so useful and so simple to understand. When things go wrong we will do anything to avoid that bad feeling, we either blame someone else or identify ourselves as a bad person. Instead, we should lean into that bad feeling and examine what ...more
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Organized and well thought reflections on what meaning there is in failure and being able to stand up in the face of it. Compilation of a commencement speech the author gave in 2014, and an interview in which the author has with the publisher of Sounds True.
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
A quick must-read that changes your life
Stephanie Barko
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This title was the October 2016 selection of South Austin Spiritual Book Group, a reading group that loves Buddhist philosophy.

The book is a transcript of Pema's 2014 commencement address to Naropa University, plus an interview at the end.

I learned some new things about Pema's personal journey reading the interview and was glad it was there. The commencement address was great advice for Millennials about the how to respond to the type of world they are inheriting and good advice for all of us t
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A quick read, but including some really refreshing ideas to keep thinking about.

Really love this book. Here's a part that stood out to me:
"All I can say is, 'If you follow your heart, you're gonna feel better than if you hold back because of fear.' But when you follow your heart ...there is no guarantee that the whole thing won't be a total failure, and there's no guarantee that you're not going to get criticisms. You'll get praise and blame is the usual scenario.
The question is, are you go
Chris Blocker
It's strange that I picked up this book, even more so that I read it. This isn't my thing. But I was having one of those moments when I felt like stepping out of my comfort zone and there before me was this book and its pretty cover. I started to read it and by the time I realized I was bored, I was more than half way through and figured I might as well finish it.

So, yeah, pretty typical self-help zen writing, but with a pretty, albeit simple, cover. Embrace your failures. Learn from them. That'
Greg Williams
I’m a fan of Pema Chodron’s works, ever since I first read When Things Fall Apart years ago. There is a wise simplicity to her discussions that resonate with anyone.

This piece is pretty short and simple - it’s a commencement address she did for a graduating class, followed by an interview with a journalist. As always, she looks at things from a different lens and telling graduating college students to fail may seem counterintuitive but it’s actually great advice. Because it will happen. And it’s
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fear is also ultimate possibility.
Craig Bergland
Apr 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is a classic example of trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill by turning - or attempting to turn - a commencement speech into a book by adding a drawing on every other page. What there is for content is great, as Pema always is. The layout on the ebook is terrible with font size that varies broadly from page to page and cannot be adjusted - and is always way too small. Overall, it’s a shit show.
Sleepless Dreamer
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Yesterday, a friend of mine told me, "But Roni, you like making yourself uncomfortable." And another friend (there was so much socializing yesterday, dear god) told me about how he is becoming more and more aware of how much is out of his control. He was describing this as a positive thing, an understanding that a failing relationship is not his fault, that whether someone wants to be with him or not is not in his control.

I've been thinking a lot about those two statements and the connection be
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs-bio
This was a strange "book." The main part of it was a speech that Ms. Chodron gave at a relative's graduation. It is poignant and interesting, but it is organized strangely. I suppose to fill the book, the publisher decided to put a few sentences, maybe two paragraphs maximum, on one page, with a symbol on the opposing page. So, to read maybe ten pages of full text, you flip through, almost as you would a children's picture book. After that, there is a transcript of an interview with Ms. Chodron. ...more
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the interview section of this book much more impactful and worth reading than the speech section. Although the speech was great, the transcription of the one-on-one interview with Chödrön was amazing. I'm interested in reading more of her books. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for some insight on failure, moving forward and just being human. ...more
Mark Robison
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is probably best “read” on audio as it contains a commencement address, followed by an interview delving into the implications and possible concerns about embracing failure. Pema’s humor doesn’t come across as well on the printed page, but she’s funny and brilliant live. Grade: A-
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Failure is inevitable

But Pema Chodron offers realistic advice to fail better. I love what she says about moving forward, keep moving forward. Her writing is down to earth and easy to understand.
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If I could, this book deserves ten stars. Pema has a way of describing things plainly and profoundly. She is helping me sort through so much in my life. If you are struggling with thinking you are all alone in your pain and frustration, you need to read Pema's books. ...more
Bibi Larson
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Love this book - it was very enlightening and made so much sense. Great!!!
Greg Bem
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A quick mindfulness work that everyone should read because of how open it is!
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't often do self-help, inspirational, spiritual books - I don't find much use in them to be honest (largely this has to do with I feel like I'm failing if I don't meet the criteria they set forth as "examples"...which is an entirely DIFFERENT issue). This one however I came upon at BEA a couple years back and was caught by the design and title.

To be clear this is a transcribed copy of Chödrön's commencement speech given at her granddaughter's university graduation. As such, while everything
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A commencement speech about failure and what's the best attitude to face failure.
In short, you have to stop the bad self-talk or the blame game, then ask the right questions, observe and acknowledge your emotions/feelings, finally change your attitude or view of failure.
Understanding well that through failure you can bring out your best hidden human qualities and that you always have a choice to get curious and enthusiastic about what is really happening underneath, you gets better and better at
Mark Valentine
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A friend suggested I read this--wait a minute!

So I did. I figured it couldn't hurt and like the title suggests, it might teach me how to fail better.

And it didn't fail! I learned that the regrets I have in my life are the compost for growing rich and healthy things and if I didn't have that organic waste, the fruit of my actions might not be so plump. I learned that each failure is a "portal of discovery" (Joyce's expression) and should be embraced as an opportunity. It showed me that success
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Of the many sort of gimmicky books that are graduation speeches published in hardcover, this is one that I actually recommend. Graduating into a pandemic/massive economic downturn/era of escalating fascism/climate crisis/continued state-sponsored assault on Black lives/whatever else 2020 ends up throwing at us is not always pleasant, and Chödrön's words on failure as a place of real humanity have helped me reframe tough days when they do come around. The idea that when things don't turn out how ...more
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a short, great read on the importance of failing well (oh, the irony). Pema Chodron spoke about failure at her granddaughter's commencement ceremony and there is a subsequent interview transcript that goes more in-depth about failure and how to fail well. This is a book that everyone really should read and with it being so short, it'll literally take no time at all. Pema Chodron is a Buddhist and so, some of the principles are laid out as she explains how to fail well. On a personal lev ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This little book got to me with a few paragraphs of things that I really needed to hear. For what it's worth, I preferred the interview (Second half of the book) and not the actual commencement speech. ...more
Debby Hallett
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A scant hour of reading. Very good lessons about how we can move forward through even the most limiting beliefs of being wrong.
Oct 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
A commencement speech speaking about failing and getting back up to keep trying. Includes a pretty extensive interview with the author.
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Inspiring as always. Sitting with our unfolding self continues to be one of the most fulfilling challenges of life.
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Ani Pema Chödrön (Deirdre Blomfield-Brown) is an American Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition, closely associated with the Kagyu school and the Shambhala lineage.

She attended Miss Porter's School in Connecticut and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She taught as an elementary school teacher for many years in both New Mexico and California. Pema has two children and three g

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“The question is, are you going to grow or are you going to just stay as you are out of fear and waste your precious human life by status quo-ing instead of being willing to break the sound barrier? Break the glass ceiling, or whatever it is in your own life? Are you willing to go forward? I suggest finding the willingness to go forward instead of staying still, which is essentially going backward, particularly when you have a calling in some direction. That calling needs to be answered. And it’s not necessarily going to work out the way you want it to work out, but it is taking you forward, and you are leaving the nest. And that never can be a mistake—to fly instead of staying in the nest with all the poop and everything that’s in there. TS:” 6 likes
“In other words, I would say that the drive to blame ourselves or others comes from our inability to stay present with what is, because the sense of failure challenges us. It’s uncomfortable, unpleasant.” 4 likes
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