“Like everyone else, you want to learn the way to win. But never to accept the way to lose. To accept defeat, to learn the way to die is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes, you must free your ambitious mind and learn the Art of Dying.” — Bruce Lee
In martial arts, in my Aikido training, I practice freeing my mind: the “empty mind” – Mushin. I train myself “to enter the attack and die with honor”. Really when it’s ON, when I’m present, I don’t know what the outcome shall be: win or lose. What happens, will happen.
In various conversations with others, this commitment seems so foreign in Western culture or in the Western mindset. In Western culture, it’s “win at all costs”. “It’s all about winning.”
In Aikido, in Martial Arts, no conflict or no fight is the goal. O-Sensei said, “The Way of the Warrior is to give life to all things, to reconcile the world, and to foster the completion of everyone’s journey.” Yet, even in our best intentions, there is the possibility of violence, of physical conflict.
When someone attacks me, I don’t act only because I know I can win. Win or lose is a 50% probability. Do the math. I train to give me a chance. There are going to be those who are bigger, stronger, or more skilled. Thinking that one is always going to win is sheer arrogance. That’s just the deal. That’s life’s design.
The strong, wise French woman Sensei instructed said, “Enter the attack and die with honor”. I must surrender myself to the possibility that I can lose. That’s my intimate lesson in humility. The way to lose is the lesson that the bullies and abusers in #MeToo never learned, nor were interested in learning. They only act when they think they can win or dominate another. That’s cowardice. Again, just saying.
As Bruce expressed: Surrender to the Way to Lose. To learn the way to die is to free oneself. Mastery is not about being perfect. It’s not about being fearless. It was never about only winning. Mastery is about surrendering to your greater than self.
Six-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady said, “Sometimes we learn more when we lose.” Amen. In the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi, beauty is discovered in our imperfection, in our losses, when we lose. And we learn from our losses and strive to become greater than selves. Mastery lies in the Art of Defeat, in the Art of Losing.
Several years ago, I got laid off from the job that I loved. Truly, it wasn’t personal. The program I worked to support had suffered a 40% funding decrease. I had worked the program for about a year, and I was low in seniority.
Still, I experienced shame and disgrace. Although, losing my job had really nothing to do with who I was. I was afraid. I had to find another job. I felt that I had truly lost in the career game. I thought of myself as a loser.
I took nine months to find an entirely different job that occurred to me as a legitimate cause. I believed that I could make a difference in the world at large. So making way less money seemed a fair trade-off. However, it seemed to me that the job and the company betrayed the intentions in the execution. My purpose was not aligned. The noble purpose occurred as diluted in the aftermath. I found no purpose in what I did.
Consequently, I got physically weak and sick. I even stopped training Aikido for several months, fearing for my well-being. Mostly, my spirit hurt. My experience resurrected my incomplete relationship with my dad in the past that created my “I’m not good enough” story. Fortunately, I sought out help. I worked intensely with my therapist Lance.
Werner Erhard said, “To face what one fears is frightening.” That’s what I did with Lance over time. I looked at what I feared. Dug deep. I got that I was the one, who created the story: “I’m no good. I’m not deserving.” I could then create another story: “I’m okay.”
I surrendered to that frightened 8-year-old boy who thought he had “lost”. Then I could start forgiving me. I could start to love me. I began to heal my own self.
Like Werner, I only tell stories that work out. Chuck, my best friend of 25 years, got me a job back in Systems Engineering. I’m not making as much money as I did several years ago. Yet, I’m happy. I’m doing what I love. I’m working with good people with honor and integrity. I have purpose.
Now, I enjoy life more than I ever have in many years. I have renewed love for Aikido, studying with my dear friend Sensei Bobby as we recreate our Art. I’ve discovered that I love writing and that I’m pretty good at it. I self-published a book with the inspiration of my high school buddy Ken. Now I’m working on a couple of other book projects. I write about seeing the lightness in our darkest nights: That our true human design is to become greater than we know ourselves to be.
Train in the Way to Lose. Surrender to what happens. Life doesn’t always work out as we’d like or hoped. Yet, in the Art of Defeat, we all learn humility and compassion for others and ourselves. Doing so makes the World a greater place for all involved. Just saying, again.
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