One of the classic forms of embracing failure in sport is not only accepting defeat graciously, but even instigating defeat. When the honesty of the moment calls for it. One of the crowd favourite examples is Jack Sock’s alerting Lleyton Hewitt to a miscall in an ITF match. He might have lost the point, but he won the unmatched adoration of the crowd and thousands of YouTube viewers. (thanks Isley)
It’s one thing to “rise each time you fall”, but to rise to the occasion when someone else falls is a whole ‘nother level of embracing failure. Especially if that failure is your own dream that you have worked your whole life for. New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin may have lost the Olympic race, but definitely won a gold medal for Olympic spirit.
The 2016 Rio Games have provided plenty of dazzling examples of embracing failure, but few more dramatic than Shaunae Miller’s finish to win gold in the 400m. Literally, throwing everything she had into the race.
Asalha Puja today is a Theravada Buddhist festival also known as Dharma Day, is one of its most important festivals, celebrating the Buddha’s first sermon which is laid out “the central doctrine of the four noble truths” which very much embraced failure. (thanks Cori)
- “The central importance of dukkha in Buddhist philosophy is not intended to present a pessimistic view of life, but rather to present a realistic practical assessment of the human condition—that all beings must experience suffering and pain at some point in their lives, including the inevitable sufferings of illness, aging, and death. Contemporary Buddhist teachers and translators emphasize that while the central message of Buddhism is optimistic, the Buddhist view of our situation in life (the conditions that we live in) is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic.”
May all your failures take you a step closer to enlightenment.
The saying goes that it is easy to be a “good winner”, but a lot harder to be a “good loser”. You don’t get much better loser than Mike Pantangco, Mixed Martial Arts fights in Prison City Fight League…
- “Patango was winning the fight and backs off and taps out. And he told us why he forfeited a fight he was winning. ‘I just feel that there’s no point in fighting him because he didn’t train against me and I didn’t train for him and I just feel like we’re amateur fighters. We don’t get money. We don’t get paid,’ said Pantangco in a heavy accent. ‘And I know that the only thing [that’d happen] is him to go to the hospital or get hurt. I just feel terrible so I’m just going to give him the win.’”
Winner of the embracing failure gold medal for character and sportsmanship.
Olympic Day today celebrates the Olympic spirit. Yes, many will seek the dream of their life’s work to be crowned Olympic champion. But the spirit of the Games extends far beyond the grand prize. Baron Pierre de Coubertin comments, "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."
As Seth says in his post “Cheering when you lose”…
- “Who is waiting at the finish line, and who will be cheering for you at the final banquet, even when you don’t win? Especially when you don’t win…I’m not talking about the sometime fan who rewards the winner, or the logo-wearing baseball fan who shows up when the team is in contention… I’m wondering about the person that is in it for your effort and your passion and your tears. Almost nothing is more important to the artist who dares to leap.”
And leaping is exactly what Russia’s Olga Graf did at the medal ceremony for the women’s speed skating 3000m medal podium (see above). The saying goes “2nd place is the 1st loser”. I guess that goes double for the 3rd place bronze finish. But don’t tell that to Olga.
Commencement season again and the theme of embracing failure will definitely be making it into plenty of valedictory and honorary speeches. And if there is anyone who has milked such a theme, it is Pema Chonron. Not only did she make it the topic of her Naropa University address, but she also published the talk into a book (with each page being about 2 sentences) and then also posted it on YouTube (and instead of just posting it, she chopped it up into a dozen short clips).
I bought “Fail Fail Again Fail Better” because I consider buying almost any book on failure and I was sold by the imprimatur of the “Forward” [sic] written by Seth Godin (the best part of the book). As much as I’m loathe to criticise a Buddhist nun, it is really a weak treatment. But, here are a few excerpts that I did appreciate…
- “Fail again, fail better. It’s like how to get good at holding the rawness of vulnerability in your heart. Or how to get good at welcoming the ‘unwelcome’…There are usually two ways that we deal with [failure]. We either blame it on someone else or some other – the organisation, our boss, or partners, whatever…The other really common thing…is that we feel really bad about ourselves and label ourselves ‘a failure’…Out of that very same space of vulnerability and rawness and the failing of failure can come our best human qualities or bravery, kindness, the ability to really care about each other, the ability to reach out to each other.”
She also recounts a fun story of an old man who responds to the fortunes of life with unflappable equanimity. First, the prized horse of the old man and his family runs away. The wife is horrified and exclaims, “This is the worst thing ever!” The old man replies, “Maybe yes, maybe no.” The next day, the horse returns with a mare. The wife proclaims, “This is the best thing ever.” The old man replies, “Maybe yes, maybe no.” Then the new horse breaks their son’s leg…”worst thing…”…”maybe yes, maybe…” And this goes on and on with each piece of bad news leading to a silver lining and each piece of good news leading to a complication or problem.
Was this a good treatment of “embracing failure”? Maybe yes, maybe no.