Life Hits Hard!
By Stephen Doherty
“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life!”
No one in their right mind would welcome failure and hardship nor invite chaos and uncertainty into their lives. That said, who among us can deny that often the greatest, if not the harshest, teacher can be life itself. One of the most difficult jobs we have as parents is determining how to inject a decent balance of stress and hardship into the young lives of our kids so as to partially innoculate them to a dangerous and difficult world. I think one can safely make the argument that peril and jeopardy visits the priviledged and affluent in ways as ominous and heartbreaking as it does to the impoverished. Adversity is to life what push-ups and running is to health. A steel knife blade is made sharp by being dragged across a hard and coarse surface. We do ourselves and certainly our kids no favors by pointing out the easiest roads to travel.
I’ve been engaged in discussions recently with my own kids regarding some of the coming difficulties and challenges of adulthood. Most of these discussions have centered on overcoming adversity and challenges and how we define not getting what we want or getting where we need to. These challenges become more complex in a world increasingly focused on emotional comfort over merit and performance. So I gave them my own personal philosophy as it relates to defining those times when we fail to achieve our objectives or suffer setbacks in our vision of how life should be.
In my mind, losing is an outcome that just as easily could have been a win or a victory. There was nothing in the approach to the game or job interview or conflict that wasn’t within our grasp. There was no deficiency in skill, training, or education that created any disproprtionate advantage or disadvantage to efforts in the engagement. A tiny error in strategy, luck, response, or decision could easily have been the margin of victory or loss. If repeated ten times – it’s likely that victory would have been achieved more often than not. Solace can be taken that we have the “right stuff” and perhaps need to rethink approach, tactics, or strategy. This outcome is personified in ball games where the announcer excitedly proclaims, “The winner of this contest will be whoever has the ball last!”
Unlike losing, being beaten has an additional component. There was a marked deficiency in skill, training, or education that will need to be corrected or augmented before repeating the contest. In this case, there is virtually no path to victory or success without seriously retooling. Strategy and tactics might have been just fine but the lesson was rarely do knives win gunfights. I’m not suggesting that victory or success is impossible here – but as one of my favorite mentors was fond of saying, “Hope and luck aren’t sound strategies!” The play here is to embrace the lessons of the experience and work hard to fill any gaps or voids in skill or education before re-engaging.
I despise this word but it has meaning and cannot be ignored. Awareness of its relevance is critical to our growth and development. Being defeated means not only losing the contest or being beaten at the chosen endeavor – it also denotes the gutting of one’s heart and soul! To me, defeat should only occur when the grim reaper finally gets his hands on our shirt collar and yanks us down for the count. Anything short of that is admitting defeat and becomes an act of weakness and cowardice. Because, in my opinion, there is always a pathway to something better and something more meaningful and satisfying. Always! To admit defeat is to surrender your remaining destiny to chance or fate. Screw that!
I have had a very interesting life. I have exprienced some incredible joys, achievements, and successes equaled only by some of the most devastating losses, failures, and personal travesties imaginable. On balance? I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it! As my daughter often reminds me, “Dad, things happen for a reason.” I have always been of the belief that if you are blessed with just one more sunrise – anything is possible. Carpe Diem!
“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure.
Continue to reach out.” – Benjamin Franklin