Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Agony Of Defeat

Ouch! I had the privilege of coaching my son's Senior High School basketball team this year. Tonight we were eliminated from the playoffs with a 1 point loss. It's one of those defeats that stays with you for a while. You know - the "woulda, coulda, shouldas."
Watching the reactions of the team, and even thinking about the emotions I was experiencing, makes for an interesting study. Some get angry, some seem emotionally devastated, some try to laugh it off; some point fingers, others take responsibility; some look for reasons, some shrug their shoulders. It really is a microcosm of life.
It got me thinking of how people react to the failures and disappointments in life. We all have them, or will have. How people respond to failure says a great deal about them and also has a great deal to do with the kind of person we become. I'm reminded of a leadership development lesson I listened to quite a few years ago called "Failure Isn't Final." I believe it was one of John Maxwell's Injoy Life Lessons.
What I remember from the lesson is that many of the greatest leaders in history endured failure after failure and defeat after defeat and yet used those experiences as building blocks for future success. Look at Abraham Lincoln as an example. His mother passed away when he was only 9; he was a part of some failed business enterprises; he lost more elections than he won; he endured seasons of unpopularity, and yet he is remembered as one of the greatest Presidents in American history.
Someone said that when you fall, you might as well pick up something while you're down there. A wise person does that. They are able to look objectively at their own failure and learn. What was the cause? Was it lack of preparation? Was it bad timing? Was it a character issue? Was it simply an unfortunate series of circumstances? What difference does it really make in the big picture of things?
Someone else said that "It's not what happens to you, but what happens in you that matters." There's a lot of truth in that statement. The best that we can do with failure is to let the wounds heal and then look for the lessons; improve ourselves and prepare for the next time. It doesn't change the fact that losing hurts, though. Ouch!