Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Losing and physical pain are life's natural teachers

What do losing and physical pain have in common?  I posed this question a few hours ago and I was surprised not to see more responses.   Last night I had something hit me.  It hit me like it's been staring me in the face. I'm a loser.  I've been a loser my whole life.

Now now now calm down.  Hear me out.    I'm not talking about that guy that lives in his mother's basement at an unspeakable age with no ambition or skill to contribute to society.  I also don't mean that guy with no marketable personality or charm that just creeps around.  You know.  The stereotypical loser.

I mean that I have lost in so many things in my life over and over.  Sometimes my losses were of my own doing.  Sometimes other people contributed to my losses by being better than me, sabotaging me, or some other means.  I have lost at just about everything I have ever done.  I've lost over and over and over again at countless tasks and competitions.  I've lost in relationships both personal and professional. I've lost in competitions as a child.  I've lost in competitions at work as an adult.  I've chosen the wrong job move and lost.  I've made countless mistakes. I've lost, and from losing I have learned how to win.

When it comes to physical pain I love the hot iron scenario.  When a parent turns on an iron to iron clothes very little about the iron changes.  A small light may come on and it may steam if they are like me and always turn it on too hot to begin with.  To a child the iron may simply seem to exist, neither in a "hot" or "cold" state.  Surely a responsible parent would not leave a small child alone with an iron, most certainly not a hot iron.  Let's pretend in this scenario that the child is mischievous and climbs really well.  The parent can spend all the time in the world teaching this child that the iron is hot, but without actual life experience the child cannot fully comprehend or understand what that means.  Yes yes yes tell a child "don't touch that" but all parents know that when you tell most children not to do something they are immediately plotting to do just that.  When the parent isn't looking the child climbs up and badly burns themselves.  The child learns.  The hot iron is hot.

Most physical pain is like this.  Often our bodies let us know when we are doing something that hurts. Yes there are always exceptions like chronic pain or illnesses that cause pain but those are not what i'm talking about.  I'm talking about reactionary pain.  "When I do this, I feel this,"  pain.  This type of pain teaches us how to survive on this planet.  It keeps us from seriously injuring ourselves by making a punishment correlation.  We remember what hurts and we do it differently.  Even when we work out and exercise we sometimes find that the method we are using or our "technique" is wrong because of what muscles are sore the next day.

Losing is just the same.  I am who I am because I'm a loser.  I've lost so  many times, but with each loss has come a lesson.  Sometimes the lesson is simply that I can't succeed in that field.  Sometimes I'm able to look back at my mistakes and learn from them.  I'm always able to be a stronger person because of them.  Sometimes I take losing hard.  That's because it isn't easy.  Just like physical pain losing hurts.  It hurts that basic self worth and pride that is held deep within the human heart.  Most people learn more from losing than they ever do from winning.  Winning is nice and necessary.  If you never win in life the potential to grow to resent competition increases exponentially.  Losing isn't fun, but it is as essential as our physical pain.  It teaches us what not to do and how to do things better.

Neither of these experiences are complete without thought and contemplation.  If a child touches the iron and burns themselves they are doomed to repeat it if they don't realize that their own actions burned them.  The same parallel can be drawn with losing.  Without reflection and analysis of why I've lost so much in my life I could never achieve any level of success.  I'm a loser, sure, but I'm so much more than that.  I learn from my mistakes.  I learn when I get hurt.  I learn when I lose.  Most of all I apply everything I learn the next time I am confronted with a situation.

All there is left to ask is whether you could say the same about yourself.