The Fight Of Your Life!
by Stephen Doherty
April 2nd, 2023
“The greater the obstacle …
The more glory there is in overcoming it!” -Moliere
John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, once said, “You learn a page from a victory .. but a book from a defeat.” His meaning was clear. The definition of high achievement also includes overcoming and defeating the roadblocks and obstacles life throws in your way. Let’s also be crystal clear about something else – some of these roadblocks and challenges are self-inflicted! Does that dampen the glory of defeating them? HELL — NO!
Why is this so important to understand and embrace? Because we’re living through an epidemic of depression and suicides incubating in a culture and society that has weaponized shame. People don’t understand and aren’t being taught that while the arena caters to gladiators – the opponents run the gamut!
Is overcoming drug addiction any less glorious an achievement than winning a marathon? Is a college degree any less impressive earned by a 50-year-old ex-convict than a fresh-faced 22-year-old? Is divorce a permanent badge of dishonor or the opportunity to learn and grow into a better version of yourself?
The arena is where all great battles play out and it cares nothing for the nature of the opponents. It gives equal opportunity for all who enter it to leave victorious and with honor and glory – or crushed and defeated. In the inspirational words of Ritu Ghatourey, “You are not what you have done .. you are what you have overcome.”
Occasionally, I feel sorry for those whose lives have been so serene and carefree and absent turmoil or strife, for never knowing the pleasure or visceral magnitude of defeating great opponents – even the self-inflicted ones. I’m not saying that you cannot be successful and happy while avoiding combat in the arena, I’m merely noting that juggling chainsaws is a necessary life skill because, as John Wooden noted – your crushing defeats will far outnumber your shining victories – and if embraced and acted upon, will yield their own measure of satisfying wins. Still glorious – just different.
Our society is perverting the entire concept and value proposition of the arena. Rather than encourage the donning of shield and sword to combat the obstacles life presents us – ALL of the obstacles life presents us – it’s handing out “victim” tee-shirts and promulgating finger-pointing and hopelessness in response to life’s difficulties.
We’ve elevated “feelings” over the glory (and necessity) of the battle. We’ve dismissed the gladiator and the arena in favor of avoidance and excuse making, and the outcome across our culture and society has been catastrophic. As a nation, we’ve never been this depressed, suicidal, over-medicated, or seen our mental health in such a state of atrophy and decline.
Some final words for those who have managed to avoid the arena but specialize in criticizing those who haven’t. I’ll leave it to Teddy Roosevelt to express the sentiments felt by so many of us who have successfully confronted and overcome because we chose to jump in the ring and do battle – rather than surrender to our own worst nightmares.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become!” -Carl Jung