Your gut, your instinct — it tells you to hunt down and to relish victory.
But, defeat is where you are given opportunities.
This is a motto I have held close to my heart for about a decade.
And for good reason.
As a younger, more aggressively assertive male, I always was on a search-and-destroy mission for whatever next thing I could accomplish.
Trying to learn Finnish.
Marrying my then girlfriend.
Getting a promotion at work. And a raise.
Becoming physically ripped.
I went after these things with a hunger. A voracity and energy.
I failed to learn Finnish. There was no drive.
She divorced me.
My then job promoted me about 2 levels up in one move, well past my competence, ultimately making me step down altogether.
I got in great shape…but overdid it, having back-to-back hernias which needed surgery.
And every single time, I felt defeated.
Every failure felt like the end.
I was proud. Much as Icarus did, so too did I fly too close to the sun and then fall, fall, fall from the heavens.
Ultimately, the divorce and stepping down from my massive promotion (which proved me incompetent before all my peers!) broke me. I turned to severe alcohol abuse for years.
These were victories pursued and battles lost.
Failure won out over me.
It took many years for me to see the lesson:
I had been a Narcissist of the supreme sort and proud to a fault.
Humbling was what I needed.
Now, we all are Narcissists on a spectrum, and I am still recovering in that respect (as well as from alcohol — 4 years!), but the lesson in the failure was that I needed to stop driving so hard at focusing on just winning.
Life is not a mountain.
You don’t scale up, up, up and then say “Well, that’s it, then,” and sled down.
Life, however, is like a mountain.
Much as we call Eudaimonia “The Infinite Mountain,” so it is named as Eudaimonia is a path through life…A willing acceptance of acting in a manner consistent with the person we aspire to become!
And in becoming that person, you will fail. Much.
If we allow ourselves to be wrapped up in the pursuit of raw achievements for the sake of achieving, it’s just masturbation. We will perceive ourselves as failures when we fail instead of understanding ourselves as imperfect, inherently at our core.
While we shouldn’t go out and seek failure — we absolutely must put our best foot forward in every endeavor — we should gladly and warmly embrace failure.
Victory is excellent.
But it is failure where we must look for opportunity!
Follow for daily philosophical meditations.
These are distillations from my coming book “YouDaimonia: the Ancient Philosophy of Human Flourishing.”
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