While there is a wealth of literature about childhood dyslexia, adult dyslexia remains relatively undocumented, particularly from a lived perspective. This paper focuses on the 'deficit perspective of failure', as highlighted in current literature, which addresses issues confronting adults with dyslexia. Within this theme of failure a number of subtypes have been identified. This paper contextualises these subtypes around the perceptions of individuals involved in a tertiary course for adults with dyslexia. The paper demonstrates what the author has identified as a 'conundrum of failure' that has influenced the perceptions of many adults with dyslexia, including their life choices. Its prevalence in the literature and the lived experiences of the research subjects highlight the need for societal, institutional and attitudinal change.