Most of us brag about the wins that we achieve, but we ignore the losses that cripple our confidence. It’s a vicious cycle that turns us around and around, pulling us away from the real potential that we possess. It should not destroy a fencer to lose a match, it should boost them.
This is important in fencing of course, but learning to handle loss in an effective way is a translatable skill that we can apply to all parts of our lives. There is always a sting to a loss, but it should never be so devastating that it keeps us from continuing to move forward. The decision of whether to keep going must be based on our own empowered ability to make choices.
Failure is everywhere
Think about it in terms of social media, because that’s something that just about everyone can relate to.
- We see the graduation photo, not the long hours in the library or the rejection letters from colleges that didn’t accept the student.
- We see the winner of a talent competition on TV, not all the times they auditioned but didn’t make the cut.
- We see the victor on the podium at the Olympics, not the hundreds of brutal losses they endured along the way.
Sure, when someone gets to the top, we often look back retrospectively and find inspiration in all off the times that they got back up and were resilient in the face of defeat, but no one was looking when they actually experienced that defeat. They went through that difficult time in the quiet, perhaps thinking of quitting or wondering if they would be able to come back from the emotional toll that this loss took on them.
There is a sadness to this, but there’s also a real problem because not seeing this means that others don’t know the challenging truths about the path through to that pinnacle. We all lose sight of the tremendous worth that lies in all paths. Many more fencers don’t ever get a gold medal at the World Championships than will ever make it there, and their stories are worthwhile too.
There is failure all around us. All the time. Everywhere we go. By the very nature of competitive achievement, there can only be one person at the top. What makes them stand out is the fact that they have gone beyond everyone else to get there. That’s not to say that there is any less value in the people who lose – quite the opposite. Most of the time we will not reach the goal, and so we must find value in that loss. It can be strengthening. It can be fulfilling. It can even be exciting.
We cannot get past this simple truth – failure surrounds us. And that’s not a bad thing.