Analysis & Comment

John Daly: 'There's more to life than CAO lottery'

Across the country over the past six days many a home has echoed to a despairing Leaving Cert anthem of what might have been. “Two points shy of the H1 that would have changed my life,” they cry from beneath duvets, or “I coulda been a contender if it wasn’t for this hateful H4.”

And while anybody over 35 will likely agree with Winston Churchill’s observation “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” – try telling that to the guy who’s a whisker shy of medicine in Trinity. Such are the traumatic realities being wrestled with by thousands of CAO victims up and down the country right now – and little comfort any words of condolence can do to help lift the gloom.

Sadly, though, failure is an inescapable part of life, and if those faceless paper markers have left you a measly 0.5pc short of pharmacy in UCD, welcome to the real world.

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But even in these dark moments, try to remember “blows that don’t knock you make you stronger”.

Indeed, one of the most frequently invoked mantras of Silicon Valley – that Californian paradise so yearned for by aspiring third-level grads everywhere – is a variation on the famous Samuel Beckett line: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

The centre of America’s IT industry now subscribes to a modernised version of the Beckett aphorism. On a recent visit, I noted a distinct celebration of failure amongst techie start-ups, with phrases like ‘fail fast, fail often’ and ‘failing forward’ peppering the geek-speak in cafés and health food stores around Cupertino and Menlo Park.

With 95pc of Silicon Valley start-ups in any given year destined for the IT scrap heap, nobody kids themselves that there’s many a slip between super-successes like Google and those unknown flameouts that don’t last a month. Akio Morita’s first invention was a rice cooker that burned food – then he came up with the Sony Walkman; Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start up a company was called Traf-O-Data – a spectacular disaster; Walt Disney chose journalism as his first career, only to be fired for “lack of imagination”. Better yet, ponder the description of Fred Astaire’s first screen test: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” The framed note went on to take pride of place in his Beverly Hills mansion throughout his life.

“Failure is still a taboo topic all over the world, but we’re working to change that,” says Cassandra Phillipps, founder of FailCon – an annual conference where entrepreneurs study their failures to prepare for future success. “Stop being afraid of failure and start embracing it.”

Regardless of how well we prepare, sometimes things just don’t work out as planned, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.

You’re just like the rest of us, learning from mistakes and trying to be smarter next time. So dry those tears and get out from under that duvet – there’s more to the world than the wretched CAO wheel of fortune.

A soapbox to success

Marty Morrissey – if he didn’t exist, we’d have had to invent him. The exuberant sports commentator is more than just a perma-tanned pretty face – he’s a legend who knows how to roll with the punches.

Caught rotten standing on a soapbox last week to interview a pair of GAA giants, the 5ft 7in Marty explained: “Look it’s very simple – a man has to do what a man has to do. Sean Cavanagh is 6ft 2in and Mick Quirke is 6ft 7in – I had to see into their eyes.”

With a can-do attitude like that, it’s no wonder there’s no party like a Marty party. G’wan, ya good thing!

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