June 09, 2008

The Agony of Defeat

The elections are over and my 2nd son placed 2nd, giving him a place on Student Council as a Member at Large and my eldest boy did not place.

Yes, he is disturbed, but he’s getting over it. He ran against 11 other kids and I told him it would be a long shot.

He got in the car rather bummed out and I told him that there is a reason that they announce it the way they do, five minutes before school lets out. Those that lose have only five minutes to have to face everyone and then school is let out and it’s off everyone’s minds and then there’s the summer and then come fall… nobody will even remember there was an election, let alone who ran.

It’s a good way to handle it. It really is.

I told him, “I am really proud that you threw your hat in the ring. I don’t want you to be a spectator. I’m not a spectator. I participate in life. If I think I can help, I volunteer. I don’t bitch about how things are running, if I can step in and lend a hand. You ran for an office… you were choosing not to be a spectator and I am proud.”

He was rather sullen. Finally he said, “It just sucks because I worked so hard on everything for three days. I worked SO hard and I lost…”

I gave him this last long speech:

“Someone is always going to lose. Sometimes they are good people. Listen to me, NOBODY is going to remember that you ran for middle school Treasurer and lost. There were 11 of you. You are in a group of nine… nobody is going to remember. And absolutely this is not going to follow you. This will never be linked to you… its over.

Let me take it a step further though. Hillary Clinton just spent MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of dollars running for the Democratic nomination for President of this country. MILLIONS of dollars. She has spent years of her life prepping for it. She has absolutely worked her butt off for years and the last nine months, or since she announced, and she has traveled and worked and fund raised. And she lost…

… and for the rest of her life its with her. Every time they mention her name they will say, ‘Hillary Clinton, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for President…’ over and over and even when she dies, when Hillary Clinton dies, the news commentator is still going to say, “… she ran in 2008 unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination…”

It will follow her… forever. This will not follow you. It sucks to be you right now… but everyone will forget. That is a bonus.”

He said nothing really, keeping to himself. My heart hurt for him as it does for every parent when their child works for something and does not attain it.

I told him there was a something I wanted him to read. A few years ago, a man I think highly of, a retired Army General who rode with Patton when he was but a young Lieutenant, said to me, “The Man in the Arena. Bou, you are in the Arena. You do not watch. You do.” It has stayed with me… and I hope it stays with my son.

From Teddy Roosevelt, his speech known as The Man in the Arena, the famous passage:

“It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

And my favorite line:

“…so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

May my son know many victories… and defeats… in his lifetime. But as his mother, I do hope for more victories! Absolutely.

Posted by Boudicca at June 9, 2008 09:43 PM | TrackBack

Read this last night in my present pasttime...'The Prince of Foxes' by Samuel Shellabarger...

"But history, in the main, is a dull record of second rate men, who have been given luck and means denied to their betters."

i just thought of that after reading your post. I'm certain he'll be a better man for just having been in the fight.

Posted by: Jay- the friendly neighborhood piper at June 10, 2008 09:09 AM

yeah, the agony of defeat...or is it the agony of de feet..I forget..

but my Pop gave me about the same kind of pep talk when I wuz a lad..we lost a ball game.

Pop allowed that I had to remember that when we won the other team lost..and had that same feeling of disgust. He says they ain't nothing to be feel bad about as long as you can look yore self in the mirror and know that you did the best that you could do..it is when you didn't give it your best shot and lose that you should feel bad..and even if you win and didn't give it your best you should feel ashamed.

My Dad was a smart man..I have never completely lived up to his advise but I have never forgotten it.

Posted by: GUYK at June 10, 2008 10:00 AM

.... no one ever enjoys defeat.... the key is, I suppose, if you can look yourself in the mirror after a defeat and know that you tried your best.... it's better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all....

.... besides, it's life's little defeats that teach us how to get closer to the victories.....

... excellent pep talk, ma'am...

Posted by: Eric at June 10, 2008 02:06 PM