We won’t always be the best and we won’t always win. Sometimes the other guy is bigger or truly better. It’s a fact we need to swallow and accept if we ever want to be truly great at anything.
Kind of like that song, Ten Thousand Hours, by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats were great because they’d paint a lot.”
Any lifelong pursuit will have its ups and downs. You have to suck to get good, and then you’ll suck again because you’ll start comparing yourself to better people.
When we accept that to get Great (at anything), we will Fail, it frees us to not only try new things, but restructure the way we look at Failure.
First of all, we are not the noun. We are not the “loser” similarly as how we’re not the “winner” or the “painter” or the “gambler.” We’ve got to separate ourselves from the ego of the practitioner, and enter into the flow of the art.
We’re not the (n.) winner.
We are (v.) breathing life into the beautiful movements of Jiu Jitsu and simultaneously rendering our opponent totally useless.
We’re not the (n.) loser.
We are (v.) engaging in a fluid exchange of give and take with our partner, and our movement choices have allowed them to succeed in their game.
When we separate ourselves from the outcome, the sky’s the limit for how much fun we can have. Not that we shouldn’t set goals and strive diligently towards them, but at the end of the day we need to enjoy this hobby we spend hours on improving. If we aren’t on the mats for the love of the sport, what are we there for? And it’s not just the sport itself, with moves and gear, but everything it represents – the structure, the discipline, the secret power, the respect for others who have it too.
When we study Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai, we sign on to a lifelong practice. We are students and we are fighters. This permeates all aspects of how we live, always striving towards the strongest, best version of ourselves.
We strive to be the kind of fighter who is fluid like water, adapting and humble – not the kind of fighter a single loss would break. Every loss checks us; it checks our reactions, responses and our ego. It gives us an opportunity to get sour or get better, and ultimately our “greatness” will reflect a collection of those choices.
Life won’t always hand us what we think we deserve. In fact, sometimes we’ll put in all the work and somehow still seem to lose.
Whether it’s failure in a big fight, rejection from programs and exhibits or unanswered resumes and empty inboxes, we can’t always expect to win. We can, however, lean into the big picture, remember the life-long journey and keep showing up.
Failure is inevitable. We reflect on our failures, assess what we could’ve done differently, and we move forward. We breathe out.
It’s better to try and fail than to never try and never be a loser.
Header photo by Greg Streech.