Failure comes in many forms, and no matter how you fumble, it sucks. You do your best to prepare yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically, but at the end of the day, the harshest reality is, your best wasn’t enough.
For me, this realization came in 2016 at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) Federation No-Gi World Championship. I was an avid competitor and no stranger to the highs and lows of competition. The dieting, conditioning and attending extra practice sessions were all part of the preparation.
Days turned into hours, hours turned into minutes, and minutes turned into seconds. Before I knew it, my qualifying match had come. Laser-focused and physically prepared, I was ready to execute my well-practiced game plan.
I shook hands with my opponent, and the referee showing, “Fight!” My opponent moved forward. I charged forward. In my haste, my opponent hit a perfectly timed double leg takedown and scored two points. And for the rest of the remaining six minutes and thirty seconds of our match, we were locked in one position.
As the final seconds of our match wound down, it dawned on me in tidal-wave fashion that I had just lost because of two points. All my dieting, conditioning and extra practice sessions all came to a magnificent zenith of unused technique. We shook hands, I walked off the mat, I gave my coach a head nod, and in the shadows of the bleachers, I cried.
Just like that, my run at a world championship title was over. How could I have worked so hard for nothing? I prepared to the best of my abilities. I did everything I was supposed to do except win.
Out of all the losses I’ve had during my time practicing BJJ, this one stood out the most because I perceived my defeat as my defining factor. This loss felt like the total sum of my entire BJJ career. In turn, this meant that I was a failure. In the cold burn of defeat, this was the lie I internalized as truth.
Was this true? Of course not! It couldn’t be further from the truth. I realized that I wasn’t a failure when I told myself, losing is devastating, but quitting would be unforgivable. I left the dark shadows of the bleachers as I realized that just because I had failed this one seven-minute match, it did not mean that my entire career was a failure.
Mentally, I’ve come to find that my resilient spirit has always been there to pick me back up. My courageous spirit knows the thrill of victory and remembers the lessons of defeat. I believe that when resilience meets courage, you allow yourself the space to try while believing in yourself the space to try while believing in yourself to try again.
By Zack Sit