Scott’s Thoughts: Valuable Defeat

“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”

-Maya Angelou, American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist.

How tempting it can be to throw in the towel. To “retire” our ambition, point the way to resignation. How much easier it is to make a list of the causes that were beyond your control, the people who didn’t understand, the unlucky breaks.¬†Let’s have a drink and sit down so I can tell you all the ways I should have won. I don’t mind buying, all you have to do is agree with me and tell me I did the right thing.

When our optimism takes a beating and we get knocked around, there’s a certain comfort in lying flat-out on the floor, staring at the ceiling, all of our energy temporarily taken from us. We may even think: Maybe it’s not worth trying. Maybe I should just let it go.

But here’s the thing: If you decide to stick to the floor, eventually people are going to think you’re a rug. Be prepared to be walked on. While you may temporarily enjoy the luxury of defeat for the brief rest it provides, don’t get seduced by it. You can’t afford to stay down. If you think defeat stings, try spending the next ten years as the world’s welcome mat.

That’s the difference between “a defeat” and “being defeated.” Don’t shy from defeat. Defeat is a good teacher. It helps us reflect on our methods, retrace our steps. It opens our eyes to previously unrecognized blind spots. When a particular defeat is truly beyond our control, we can at least grasp the lesson of humility and learn to adapt to the cycles of life’s luck.

Rilke¬†once said: “Winning does not tempt that man. This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, by greater and greater beings.” The important thing is that we progress in our defeats where possible. That we use our creativity to provide us with new, ambitious ideas. That we build on our victories.

Try to remember this when the next defeat comes. Stand up again and seek your next great challenge.

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