In my short time on this planet I have known great victories. Victories over others, but more importantly over myself. We all experience moments of euphoria and revel in the greatness of our actions. Is this being humble? Probably not. These are the times we tell our children about and repeat often enough that they one day begin to mock us knowing our every word. Annoying? Probably. However, it is often far to easy to spend too much time in these moments. You see, we are defined more so by our failures than we are by our successes. We are defined by how we rise from our own ashes.

In times of triumph we all have the strength to run bravely into the next fray and we all have encouraging words for those that would follow in our footsteps, but this belies the truth. For at the next turn, when we experience defeat, many of us bleed despair that contaminates far more people than we lifted up in our revelries, and usually, also those who we sought to help in better times. Character is made in the moments where we have fallen down. It is that we get up, and how we get up that shapes each of us and determines whether we become a beacon light for others in the absence of words when they are searching for hope in the dark. Let me explain.

Life is a series of steps and missteps. It is often easy to blame others when we fail. We are often guilty of saying things such as “that test was too hard,” “he was always better,” or “how could I have expected to win?” The problem here is believing that the winner, the lucky one, the blessed person, is the person who walks away with a perfect score, has the biggest house, or stands on the highest spot on the winners dais. The people who self actualized are those who use each failure as a moment of reflection followed by redirection. What do I mean by this?

If we pay attention when we pass through this life and don’t act merely as a conduit for others or an object following our own path of least resistance we will see that each moment is an ignition point for the next. Should we succeed we should study our actions to understand what brought us to that moment and seek to emulate it while pursuing greater goals. If we fail, we should reflect on the steps we took to this moment. Did we emulate a prior success without accounting for the changing landscape? If so, we need take note and proceed with the new variables factored in, so as to succeed in this attempt. If we find we entered into unfamiliar territory, did we follow the age old adage: “A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Often, passion becomes our enemy. Temper your passion with preparation. Such preparation should include a consideration of the possible paths that success and failure may open. It should consider the contingency created by the chaos of family, friends, and other outside influences. When we understand how to clear a path towards our goals, are wary of the pitfalls that may lay ahead, keep a firm grasp on the goal, respect the possibility of failure, or success, and prepare for what each of these events may open the door to, we become catalyst for our own success. How do we rise from any one failure and how do we make our failures in the larger scope, the chance for victories in the moment when failure is knocking at our door?

Many times we are aware that a series of missteps has failure just a turn around the next bend. It is in these moments we begin to forge our legacy for others. Heroes, whether they are parents of a successful child or someone wearing a Medal of Honor, are tempered in the moments when we taste the bitterness of failure growing within ourselves. Though we may not be the victor that day against greater opponents, we can still conquer our greatest adversary, ourselves, by assessing the moment, adjusting our tactics, and seeking to be the best we can be in that moment. When we pursue failure with the passion that lead us to the moment we only guarantee the failure which we fear the most. A failure in that moment becomes a seed for our next failure which is robust and grows and ever stronger tree. When we redirect ourselves in the moment to the challenge of ourselves, we can taste victory by exceeding what may have been possible by mastering ourselves through the mastery of our passions. Success is no easier building block should we not embrace it with humility.

Many a champion has sacrificed themselves on the throne of pomposity. To revel in victory is to ignore the next adversary. The chance to fall becomes more acute in success than in failure because we neglect what brought us to that moment. Just as we must reflect in the case of failure, we must study our successes. Each success was carried on the back of self-knowledge, dedication, and sacrifice. Victory can only be born of these things, anything else is merely a gift, and we respect gifts far less than that which we have earned. When faced with success we must seek out each action on our path that slowed us, or could sow the seeds of future failure. We must remember that we should thank the people on the journey who helped to carry our load or redirect us before a misstep derailed our journey. Without these people we may never have succeeded. Without studying our own actions we may miss the thorn that becomes infected and takes down the largest animals in the kingdom. Future successes must be built on the details of prior successes and embrace the strengths of others that have and may be able to help us pursue our next goal.

In summary, each success, or failure, is born of prior success or failure. In the past lies the details of a successful journey. The victor knows himself first and what he/she seeks, plans the path he must follow before embarking next and is weary of false hope and reckless folly, tempers passion with humility in times of success and accepts criticism and advice with humility in times of failure also. When a person does these things they become a statement in their deeds and need not revel. They become a beacon to others and build relationships that strengthen every person they come in contact with. When these things become the cornerstones of your character in times of victory and defeat, then you become a catalyst for success for yourself and all those around you.

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