Tuesday, October 11, 2005

[Essay] Losing

If there’s any insult that will last through the ages, it’s being called a loser. No one wants to lose after all. But perhaps what makes losing so painful is the fact that it’s equated with failure, and people in general have feared the big F word.

It’s always been my belief that failure isn’t something that one should fear. Should one dislike it? Of course. It’ll motivate you not to make the same mistake the next time. But in the event that it does happen, instead of whining and feeling sorry for yourself, the proper attitude should be what we can learn from it. And if you look at the cycle of human history, one of the best ways people have learned is by making mistakes. Avoid it when you can, but embrace the lessons it teaches when it does happen. Of course having said that, failure is inevitable. We can’t be great at everything (although we can always strive for it), and sometimes, one must take risks in order to gain great rewards. That means getting hurt, but pain avoidance isn’t always the best medicine.

As I said, no one likes losing, including me. But there is one instance when a small part of myself cherishes it. The one time I don’t mind losing is when I’m playing games. One might think it’s due to the fact that there’s little to lose in a “game”. Well, Poker is a game and various people have lots their lives playing it. Even playing something as simple as Monopoly takes away something valuable from you: time. So even in playing games, a person has something to lose. Granted, it’s not as financially disastrous as losing your job, but losing a game is far from a pleasurable experience.

If truth be told, I don’t mind losing a game the first time. For one thing, it teaches me how to play the game. It’s by making mistakes that we learn the important moves or tactics in a game, what to do and what not to do. Sometimes, when we’re pressed into a corner, we suddenly discover alternatives or consider strategies we wouldn’t have ordinarily considered. But let’s say you lost, and you didn’t learn anything from it. I still take a small pleasure in losing because I don’t like defeat, and suddenly there’s a drive in me to succeed. I develop a persistence to succeed, and my mind suddenly becomes active and all my energies are devoted to winning. It doesn’t matter if I have to lose 99 times to win my 100th game. I just hope my opponent has the same persistence as I do so that I can truly say that my skill has developed.

This mentality of mine applies to all kinds of games I play, whether it’s card games, board games, video games, or *gasp*, even sports. Just the other day, my interest in Warcraft 3 has been rekindled by playing a match on one of its custom scenarios. I’ve been training ever since.

Of course I don’t think I’m the only person who acts like this. I’m sure there are other people who are motivated by such things. It might not be games in general but one particular passion of theirs. It might be not getting the proper music notes right, or forgetting a line in a soliloquy, or not getting the right taste when cooking a meal. Despite the failure, there’s a drive to succeed and improve.

Sadly, this isn’t a trait we apply to everything. We’re selective about it, choosing which circumstances it functions. There’s a desire to improve despite previous failure, but only on select fields of interests. An athlete might possess the drive to win during a sports competition, but not during his academic exam. A writer might struggle to find the appropriate word in a story, but not the right equation to solve a mathematics problem. In a way, we limit ourselves, not because we’re incapable of developing the right mentality, but because we don’t apply it. We already have the right mentality, as can be seen in some of our habits. It’s just not universally applied.

Losing isn’t always such a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s a matter of perspective. We can’t always choose whether we’ll win or lose (although we can strive for it), but the one thing we can determine is how we perceive it. Sadly, the human mind can be intractable if we leave it alone.

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