The stories of our lives have many chapters that involve complex twists and turns. Interwoven within those chapters are the pages of many tales; tales of victory and defeat. The victories and defeats that are interwoven throughout our lives are as simplistic as the schoolyard playground, and as complex and resounding as the courtroom. Some lives seemingly taste more defeat than others, while other lives seemingly taste more victory.
Which life then, is preferred?
While many would quickly say the life of victory and constant success, a case can be made for the benefits of both kinds of lives, both in character and quality with which the aforementioned lives produce.
Often the difference between a victory and defeat is how you frame it. For instance, most "successful" people have become so through "hard work and dedication". What they don't tell you is "hard work and dedication" usually means defeat after defeat; rising to the challenge over and over again until the lessons learned from those defeats, translate to a hard fought "victory". Everyone notices the victories, but not many people pay attention to the effort and determination put in to get to the victory. In the end, it usually is the defeats combined with determination that paves the way to victory in a persons life.
Many people are able to accept defeat and progress to victory in many areas of their life, but often times the unseen side of a persons life is where defeats tend to permanently linger.
How then goes your soul?
The demons of your past and childhood?
Perhaps the defeats in these areas of one's life are the gateway towards victory in the unseen areas, where the greatest measure of defeat and ultimately the greatest measure of victory is felt?
Perhaps you know a person who is physically fit and able to run marathons but whose family and relationships are tattered and torn. Perhaps you know a person whose family life is soaring but who needs to embrace the hard lessons of a morning run a few more times a week.
Whatever your position, we all have weaknesses, and it is in those weaknesses where the opportunity lies for exponential growth and healing. These are the lines of your tapestry that are worthy of the most attention!
The interwoven tapestry of our lives begs us to accept and embrace both defeat and victory, for very often the two are inseparable, interwoven pieces in our lives. These tapestry strips, when full embraced, lead to improved character, peace, health and well-being. It's only when we quit on the strenuous life, when we quit in the mire of momentary defeat that victory falls from our grasp.
One of the greatest Presidents and leaders the United States of America has known is Theodore Roosevelt. Regardless of one's views on his policies as a sitting President, his life's legacy is worthy of note. President Roosevelt would argue for a life tapestry filled with challenges, and hard knocks. He would argue for and lived, "The Strenuous Life"
Theodore Roosevelt in his April 10th, 1899 speech "The Strenuous Life" said this:
"I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph...
...We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been stored up effort in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a General, whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth’s surface, and he surely unfits himself to hold his own with his fellows if the need to do so should again arise. A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world."
President Roosevelt's strenuous life allowed him to accomplish all of the following:
1. Work as state legislator, police commissioner, and governor in New York
2. Own and work a ranch in the Dakotas
3. Serve as Assistant Secretary of the Navy
4. Fight as a Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War
5. Serve as President for two terms, then run for an unprecedented third term
6. Become the first President to leave the country during his term in order to see the building of the Panama Canal
7. Write 35 books
8. Read tens of thousands of books-several a day in multiple languages
9. Explore the Amazonian rainforests
10. Discover, navigate, and be named after a completely uncharted Amazonian river over 625 miles long
11. Volunteer to lead a voluntary infantry unit into WWI at age 59
It is hard to image a life well lived who has not known defeat, as well as victory. It is not the victories or defeats that matter, as much as the internal resolve and fortitude to learn, grow and continue to change for the better. Many people will spend their whole lives shrinking back from challenges that confront them, never rising to the occasion.
The person who asks the most of themselves in this life will be the person whose life tapestry is rich and full at the end; thus a tapestry worth hanging on any wall.