What does defeat look like?

Ever feel defeated? If you say no, please just go away. You and I are clearly not members of the same species.

I’ve written on the topic of failure before. Failure is the norm. It’s not the exception. The best professional baseball players get on base just over 30% of the time they come up to the plate. That’s the best guys. The guys who make more money in a day than many of us will make in a decade and more than a lot of people will ever see in a lifetime. The guys who have posters made of them that little kids put up on their walls. The guys who become cultural icons – those guys fail 70% of the time to do the job they are highly paid to do.

I mention ballplayers because I like baseball… a lot. I also mention them because I think baseball provides a unique kind of example that looks a lot like the experience of living everyday, mundane lives that don’t involve stadiums or tens of thousands of screaming fans. Regular old life is mostly about failure, and sometimes about success. If you’re really, really, really good at what you do, you might succeed a bit more than 30% of the time.

The thing is, we’re not conditioned to realize this. In school if you get the answer right 30% of the time you will fail miserably, for example. Popular culture is filled with heroes who get it right all the time. Not most of the time – all the time. So you wake up in the morning and you don’t expect to fail. You expect success. And then you don’t have it. So you feel defeated.

I’ve had a string of days on and off like that lately. Woke up expecting to kick ass, did not kick ass. Today was particularly bad because I woke up with a plan and that whole plan went up in smoke because of a uniquely painful failure. I handled my daughter’s feelings hamhandedly, and she reacted perfectly reasonably for a little kid – she became inconsolable. So, instead of conquering the world today I had to pick up the pieces of a little girl’s broken heart.

I could construct an utterly fictional conceit here about how I masterfully switched gears, realized that my kid’s soul was more important than my silly plans for my day of business and personal mastery and saved the day. Except, that isn’t what happened. What happened is that I lost perspective, got angry and made the situation worse, and then, when I realized what I’d done, felt like the heel I was, and spent about a half hour consumed with regret and sorrow.

I did, eventually switch gears, and realize that there are far worse fates to befall a guy than having to spend the day with his little girl, and figure out how to get some work done in the spaces between. Ultimately, we had a very nice time together, and I think probably both had a better day than we would have had if things had gone as planned originally. But I still felt defeated today.

I felt defeated by my inability to control myself, by my inability to maintain perspective and by my inability to remember that plans should always be flexible and that there are very few things in life that cannot wait until tomorrow.

This WILL happen with any pursuit of weight loss or fitness. Oh. My. Lord. It WILL happen to you. There will be days when you cannot manage to get a workout in no matter what you do. There will be weekends where you weigh in to find out that even though you were killing it in your workouts all week and thought you’d dialed in your nutrition perfectly the number on the scale went the wrong way (and actually, since I think the scale is a poor tool for measuring progress, let’s take that sentence and modify it to say you’ve done it all right and your pants feel tighter instead of looser). Or you might, like a friend did this week, be killing your workout and have your shoe stick on the carpet towards the end of the program, causing you to turn your ankle, laying you up for a couple of days.

There are two way-overused slogans on the planet that we all see so much we no longer register the value of what they have to say. The first is Nike’s marketing slogan – Just Do It. The second is Shit Happens. These are both excellent things to keep in mind, so try to ignore that they end up in advertising and on terrible novelty t-shirts. Collapsing in a heap because life isn’t perfect is not just silly, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Something shitty happens, you get upset and fold, therefore your day just became a shitty day. Instead, just get up, dust yourself off and keep going. Can’t do what you wanted? Do what you can. Doing something is, usually, better than doing nothing.

And really, shit doth happen. In my youth I crumpled in the face of said shit way too often and way too easily. At the time a good and wise friend had these words for me – “You haven’t got any control over what others do to you. You should, however, have almost total control over how you react to what they do.” The short version is this – It’s bad. Ok. Don’t make it worse.

Today, and several recent days I was confronted with bad stuff. I guess I did ok. Today was the first day where I made it worse. But then I made it better, and in the end, that’s pretty good.

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