Failure is hard thing to accept.
Inherent to the concept of failure is “being not good enough” and many people have a hard time admitting that. In a world where people are being forced into equality more and more, Failure is the great equalizer. You can hand out participation trophies all day, you can bail out businesses until there is no more money, and you lower every standard possible… but someone will always have a natural talent to hit faster, harder, and better.
Pretend that everyone is equal, but you are doing just that, pretending. It will never be true.
So, when is it wisdom to accept that you are not good enough.
I admit it all the time.
There are sports I’m not good at. There are video games I hate because I am terrible at them. I can’t singe or keep rhythm on an instrument.
It is easy when the task at hand doesn’t matter.
But what about when it does?
What about a sport you are good at but someone is better?
What about a job that you need to be able to do to pay your bills?
What about a relationship that should be right just can’t work out?
My First Failure
The first time I really failed was at a tournament. I trained all year to go to my first open tournament. I got my friends, teammates, and even my new wife to come. I never let my girlfriends come to my tournaments so as my wife this was a big deal. I had just gotten my second degree black belt and I wanted to win in front of all of them.
I went to a traditional karate school and while we weren’t wusses we didn’t fight full contact. We had a strict sense of respect and safety.
My match comes up and my opponent is out for blood. He was out of control and looking to hurt me. I pleaded with the rep that he was out of control and was chided for being too soft. I threw the rest of the match. I defended everything and ran down the clock.
I was not prepared for blood sport and I didn’t want to win if it meant doing that kind of damage to someone. (I later started MMA and got over this in the proper context)
I was eliminated in the first round. I failed. I was a failure. In front of everybody. Months of hard work were washed away.
After my match I went and found the promoter. I was pissed and rug him back to the ring just in time to see my opponents next round up. As we argued at ringside about safety and honor my former opponent kicked his current victim in the back of the head so hard he got knocked out and fell face first to the gym floor. His eye socket orbital bones thing shattered. His face became a curtain of blood and his eyeball fell behind his cheek.
He was seriously fucked up and probably in a permanent way.
I turned to promoter and told him to enjoy his law suit and walked away.
I was still pissed about the whole thing and going over it with my coach later.
He told me after I left that Both those fighters were disqualified and the ring was shut down after that. Technically speaking even with a loss I was the only competitor to fight “successfully” in my division and was given 1st place. He, rightly so, declined on my behalf. He told me I won through having the wisdom of when to lose.
When It Is Wise to Fail
Time and again in my life I’ve had to be wise enough to accept failure.
For the sake of my faith I had to walk away from the church.
For the sake of my sanity and pride I had to walk from a terrible job after five years.
For the sake of my happiness I had to let my wife and marriage go.
For sake of her happiness I had to let the next woman I loved go.
Each of these can be called, and rightly so, a failure.
However, you consider the alternative.
Giving up on my faith, my spirituality, the best parts of me for a job of words and stone but not spirit.
To try again and again to do the right thing only to drowned out in a chorus of what’s easy, cheap, or we can get away with.
To give up my identity, myself, and my soul to stay in marriage that had lost all meaning.
To force a woman who couldn’t “make it work” to be someone she can’t be while making me into the same monster from my first marriage.
Avoiding each of these can be called, and rightly so, a success.
Wisdom is about perspective, not spin, knowing when failure is actually success and success is really a sad failure.