Defeat: An Opportunity to Never Lose Heart…
There isn’t a sports team right now in the world feeling the daggers of defeat more than the Brazilian national soccer team at the FIFA World Cup. The 7 to 1 thrashing at the feet of the German “Mannschaft” and last weekend’s 3 to nil thumping by the flying Dutchmen, host nation Brazil’s soccer dreams of World Cup glory came utterly and completely to an end – not even a third place finish was in the cards.
For a nation that defines itself by the soccer pitch and prides itself on the “beautiful game,” Brazil has been thrown into a state of collective national mourning. And with this, a new game is about to begin (if it hasn’t already), namely the blame game. Accusations, counter-accusations, followed by firings and resignations, are the usual by-products of such massive defeats, and most certainly Brazilian soccer won’t be spared.
It’s strange, but often life’s major defeats seem to sneak up on us without any clue of anything wrong. Whether it’s a surprise bankruptcy (think Enron), a major economic collapse (think October 2008), an abrupt divorce or a sudden illness, it’s as if these things fly out of left field without warning. Surely Brazil’s soccer coach had nothing but the World Cup trophy in his sights, and why wouldn’t he? Home team, millions of compatriots cheering, local papers singing praises, how could one not get caught up in the frenzy? It’s only natural, we all would. Except for one thing, then came the Germans.
The beauty of history is the opportunity to reflect upon life’s events, and no events should garner more attention than our defeats; for it’s in our defeats, we discover the seeds of victories to come (see Acceptance, Self-Belief and a Rising Phoenix…). As we look back, we see things we never saw earlier (provided we’re humble with an open-mind). We see unheeded warnings, we see our neglect, and above all, we see our hubris. When times are good, we have a tendency to think they’ll never end, so when defeat strikes (and it always does), we wonder, “Why didn’t I see that coming?”
In 2006, Germany hosted the FIFA World Cup, and not unlike Brazil, also had dreams of winning the prized trophy on home soil. It was not to be. Germany lost in the semi-finals, and ended the tournament taking 3rd place after defeating Portugal. Although the debacle wasn’t as colossal as Brazil’s current losses, the Germans took their defeat to heart, and immediately started to revamp their entire soccer program. The results have been dramatic, and by all accounts, they field one of the most cohesive teams ever placed on a soccer pitch. By tearing their defeats apart, by reflecting on past mistakes, they laid the ground work for future victories. They never lost heart.
Famed American lawyer, Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), once wrote, “The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.”
Out of the dark quagmire, it’s now Brazil’s turn. It’s Brazil’s turn to take defeat and weave it into victory. Its Brazil’s turn to learn from it or forever be defined by it. It’s Brazil’s turn to not lose heart.
And so it is with defeat. We must view it as an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to grow lest we be defined by it, and above all, as an opportunity to never lose heart…
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