Sunday, March 04, 2007

Defeat Can Sometimes Be The Best Outcome

In some circumstances, the refusal to be defeated is a refusal to be educated.
- Margaret Halsey, novelist (1910-1997)

A refusal to be defeated does not necessarily mean a refusal to admit making a mistake or losing a battle. It can mean working hard to point the blame toward someone else rather than to oneself.

Most of us have experienced contacting a customer service representative to explain that something has gone wrong with their product or service, only to be asked (in effect, if not in fact) "What did you do wrong?" Such a company, by its practice of pointing the blame to the victim, has no intention of improving its product or service. On the contrary, it will lose more customers than its advertising will ever bring in.

Only when we admit (at least to ourselves) that we have gone dreadfully wrong, made a bad mistake or clearly picked the wrong choice can we assess when the problem began and learn from it so that the problem will not happen again. No one can correct a problem if they deny the problem exists. Or if they lie to themselves by blaming someone else.

Defeat, in the sense that Halsey means, is an opportunity to learn, to improve, to climb the next rung of the ladder of life. Learning from one's mistakes has a very special name, one that is revered by most companies, most committees, most families. It's called experience.

Experience leads to wisdom, if enough of it is accumulated. Wisdom is a name we give to people who know a great deal, who can teach others how to avoid problems and take a faster, better or more efficient route to get where they want to go.

The wisest people have made the most mistakes. The wiser among them admit it.

Much of life is wasted by people who insist upon refusing to admit that they have made a mistake. They spend a huge amount of time, effort and money gathering evidence to show that they did not make a mistake. Later in their lives they often find themselves in a dead end.

It's a dead end they built for themselves. Many learn to be comfortable there, finding ways to blame others or bad luck on how their lives went. "Life sucks!" Sound familiar?

Defeat is not a bad thing if we use it as a stepping stone to gain experience and wisdom.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to smooth out the rough patches of life.
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