“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is a popular American poem verse from the 1830s. The verse has many joke endings that replace “try, try again.”
“If at first you dont succeed, well, so much for skydiving” is a jocular anti-proverb that has been cited in print since at least May 1965.
American film comedian W. C. Fields (1880-1946) is attributed with this take on the saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.” Other variations include “If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success,” “If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average,” “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try management,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try left field,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try two more times so your failure is statistically significant” and “Cooking Rule: If at first you don’t succeed, order pizza.”
The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred. R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
U.S. author, 1782-1861
“‘Tis a lesson you should heed,
Try, try again;
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again.”
Quoted in The Village Reader (1840). The identical words, except with “try, try again,” appear in a poem titled “Perseverance; or, Try Again,” printed in Common School Assistant, Aug. 1838. No author is identified.
26 May 1965, Leader-Times (Kittanning, PA), “Today’s Chuckle,” pg. 1, col. 8:
If at first you dont succeed, well, so much for skydiving.
(T-M, WRR, Gen. Fea. Corp.)
18 October 1965, Springfield (MA) Union, “Cracker Barrel Gossip” from Vincent’s Steak House, pg. 2, col. 2 ad:
HEARD AROUND THE OYSTER BAR: If at first you don’t succeed, well, so much for skydiving.
1 July 1979, Aberdeen (SD) American News, Family Weekly, pg. 10, col. 4:
Plane Truth Department: When you’ve found that at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is a pastime you won’t need.
Google News Archive
24 January 1983, Evening News (Newburgh, NY), pg. 1, col. 3 photo caption:
Despite the grim joke, “if at first you don’t succeed, so much for skydiving,” it is a popular, rewarding and relatively safe hobby.
29 March 1984, Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), “Smiley Anders’ Baton Rouge,” pg. 1B, col. 1:
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “If at first you don’t succeed—so much for skydiving.”
A topical collection of hundreds of stories, quotations & humor for speakers, writers, pastors, and teachers
By James S. Hewett
Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers
If at first you don’t succeed, so much for skydiving.
Thinking Skills and Enrichment Activities
By Lynne Kelly
Waco, TX: Prufrock Press
If at first you don’t succeed—so much for skydiving
November 1999, The Rotarian, pg. 64, col. 2:
If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
Title If at First You Don’t Succeed, Skydiving Is Not for You: Smile Your Way Through Every Day
Day Brighteners Series
Authors DaySpring Cards, In House Compilation
Publisher Garborgs Heart N Home, 2001
ISBN 1580612539, 9781580612531
Length 366 pages