Learn to Take a Punch

Two of my favorite sports are baseball and boxing. It occured to me today that they share something in common: They both require you to fail in some way in order to eventually win.

Baseball is storied in the amount of failure that a team must experience, immortallized in this quote by Tommy Lasorda.

No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.

As for individual players, even the best hitters in the league will go up to bat 7 out of 10 times and get out through a bad hit or simply not hitting the ball. Then you have boxing. Of course you go into a boxing match expecting to get hit; but part of the strategy of it is determining what hits you’re going to take in order to tire out and weaken your opponent. Sometimes you’ll “lose” the first half of the fight only to win it in the last 6 rounds. As Louis CK said in an interview with Onion AV Club: >The biggest mistake you can make when you get in is to completely tighten up your body and run backward. You’re going to get the shit beat out of you. You actually have to take the punches and stand there and keep your game plan.

And that’s true about life, isn’t it? Failure and pain aren’t just things that happen to the unlucky; it’s just part of the game. I used to take failure very personally, but now I just try and look to the next thing and keep trying to improve. “okay,” I say to myself, “that code didn’t work, how do we do this better?”. Same with relationships; you’re probably going to have more wrong ones than right ones. If you think that each relationship is supposed to work out, then you take their failure as a personal indictment. Or worse, if you’re not willing to accept failure as an option, then you drag some really bad times out a lot longer than you had to.

I’ve not always had a percise game plan, and it’d be foolish to stick to one without some permutation in response to things. But failure is just a part of it; sometimes it informs you of where you need to go, other times it’s the spark for invention. But it doesn’t make you a bad person (you could be a bad person, but it’s not becaused you failed). Owning up to my failures and shedding my fear of them is probably the best thing I’ve ever done.