Standing there hands on your hips looking down at the ground between your feet while most of your weight rests on your right leg, the feeling of sweat running down your brow causes you to lift the bottom of your shirt to wipe your saturated face before any more drips to the floor. Your hair shows only a glimpse of resemblance to what it was before you started. Your legs are shaking, your arms are burning, and you are desperately fighting to regain control of your breathing. At this moment you look up at the lights and think to yourself; “I just can’t go any more.”
As you walk over to your water bottle you can feel every muscle in your legs tighten up with each step closer to your drink. “Tomorrow is going to hurt,” rings aloud in your head. As you scan the room you see your teammates and you know that your condition is the popular one. So you grab your water bottle, take a swig, and against all better judgement take the floor again to put your body through more pain because you know that the pain of training and preparation is nothing compared to the agony of defeat.
Defeat, the word implies so much, but where does the agony come from? Is it a matter of what place you take, or what score you get? Perhaps the agony comes from the realization that you were not as prepared as your opponent. Maybe the agony of defeat is the multiplied pain that comes from the lack in training.
The agony of defeat, though we try to avoid it, is paramount in the development of champions. As incredible as it sound, the reality is that the agony of defeat is the catalyst that drives the champion. Only when one feels the agony does he or she work so hard to avoid it in the future. Also, how can one learn to appreciate the sweet taste of victory without the experienced bitterness of defeat lingering in the tastebuds.
For those who are accustom to the succulent taste of victory who have forgotten about agony, defeat is necessary to remind them of the road less traveled; the road of a champion. See, champions are forged in the furnace of defeat. Failure after failure builds the calluses necessary to fight through the painful journey to excellence. It doesn’t come easy, and even for the naturally talented it spares no one, but builds the characteristics that makes up the champion.
The champion doesn’t see victory in placement only, but in overcoming that voice, the one that said, “I can’t go any more.” Victory comes from putting everything on the floor and bringing nothing back with you. Champions want to win the contest, but see victory as winning the war; the war against self.
The journey of a champion is not compared to a leisure float down stream, or a ride down the path in a comfortable carriage. No, the journey is compared to a climb to the top of the mountain. A journey filled with doubt and defeat, with scrapes and short falls back down the mountain is what the champion must travel. Though bruised and battered, though tired and weary, though filled with failure after failure the journey of a champion is characterized by victory after victory. This journey is completed by silencing the voice of doubt, refusing to accept the paralyzing nature of failure, and rising victorious over the one true foe. Self!