One path leads to disheartenment. The other path leads to learning.
Many follow the path of disheartenment because, believe it or not, it is the easier of the two roads to take. It is easy to wallow in despair, to make sense of things by blaming and making excuses. It is easier to be angry, frustrated, and hopeless because we feel relieved of the burden of responsibility meant for shoulders with the strength and commitment to carry it. It is easy to set sights on new goals and refuse any more challenges on the account of a broken, bleeding heart. It is easier to let the fire flicker and sputter, to watch it gasp and die and disappear, and forget about it as if it has never existed, and accept the embrace of a dark night that will hide you from the world that has witnessed your failure over and over again. Lemonades from lemons still taste sour.
On the other hand, those who walk the path of learning will suffer, it is guaranteed. But it is a suffering that offers the prospect of being rewarded. What the reward is and when it will be gifted—all of these questions answer to the hands that sculpt our destiny, in concert with what we seek to carve. The path of learning is a path of suffering because it is salt to the fresh, open wound of losing, but it is the same salt that will give flavor to the meat and chocolate one gets to enjoy once the losing stops and the winning begins.
The path of learning is a path of suffering because it demands genuine and complete humility, after humiliation, and that is when the salt truly stings. From humility comes the accounting of one’s own mistakes, and this is never easy—to accept shortcomings, to acknowledge insufficiency, to admit failure in being the best version of one’s self when you are utterly and totally convinced you have given all you’ve got during the contest for the sake of winning. The path of learning will show you the folly of the notion of equal reward for giving everything you’ve got—it is hubris, a Quixotic expedition, especially when your faculty is near-bare and your arsenal little and lacking, like throwing a pebble at a raging tidal wave hoping to deter the water from coming any closer, shouting at a roaring water that cannot even hear you.
The path of learning will show you that you can learn how to build a seawall, and one or two or twenty bricks do not make a seawall strong enough to shield you from storms. Until the time you are formidable, it is only then that you can say you have given everything you’ve got, that you came to fight with the best version of yourself, and should you lose again to the storm and its allies, remember that the path of learning is a long road of suffering not everyone is meant to endure.
I watch the Chicago Bulls this season lose matches—most of them, games they could’ve won. I watch them head to the locker room with bowed heads and shrunken shoulders. People say it does not matter if you win by one point or 30 points—a win is a win. Similarly, it does not matter if you lost by a point or 30 points—a loss is a loss. I disagree. While I think all games lost offer the defeated valuable lesson on how to forge a stronger sword for the war, losing close matches teaches you how to sharpen a sturdy sword just in time for the next battle. And for me, that is a big difference.
I hope the Chicago Bulls realize that. I know they are ready to fight, I just hope they are prepared to suffer. Every blacksmith knows that the strongest swords are those built to endure, those that suffered hammer and fire. Without endurance, the lessons of war are lost among those whose strength can only accommodate disheartenment, and I refuse to believe this is Chicago Bulls. Losing by one point is a win if in the past you can’t even make it a close game. Steps or strides make no matter, if the goal is simply to move forward, not leap.
I wish the Chicago Bulls this wisdom, not to be pedantic but to inspire hope when it is easy to succumb to hopelessness. I wish them fortitude and perseverance. Above all else, I wish them good fortune in the wars to come.
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