Snatching Defeat From The Jaws of Victory
by Jake Block
“The true test of anyone’s worth as a living creature is how much he can utilize what he has.”
— Anton LaVey
The quote, “Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat” has been attributed to US Representative James Seddon (1815-1880) of the State of Virginia, in describing the heroic actions of a military regiment during the Mexican – American War (1846-1848), relating how its heroic actions in battle had gained a victory, where defeat had been almost certain. It is to suddenly win a contest in which its loss is a foregone conclusion; a success gained through skill, effort and good judgement.
Heroes can arise from dismal beginnings, defying all probability and expectation that they will succeed, to become much more than anyone could have expected. Certainly you have heard of some of them, like Oprah Winfrey, who grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi to build a multi-billion dollar entertainment empire, or author J.K. Rowling, who began in poverty, but possessed a passion for writing that led to her creation of the Harry Potter series of books that sold over 500 million copies which then garnered her a share of the $7.7 billion movie franchise. The dyslexic and underperforming British child who dreamed of wealth and power was Sir Richard Branson, creator of companies and services including the Virgin Airlines and upcoming Virgin Galactic space tourism group and a personal wealth of over $4 billion. You can find them in every field of endeavor, those who could be expected to fail, but won despite the odds.
Certainly, not every person who is born of modest means can achieve stratospheric successes such as these, but it is certain that those who grasp opportunities and use their personal skills and resources wisely, can and do succeed even when odds are not in their favor. Thus, they snatch that victory from the jaws of defeat in their own lives and quite often, their successes either directly, or indirectly, assist others within their personal spheres of influence… that is, if they too grasp opportunities and make the most of them as well.
But then we have the opposite side of the coin in those individuals, and I’ll bet you the proverbial dollar to donut that you know at least one, who talks a good game, but never seems to reach the goal. Even when seemingly possessed of all of the attributes one would assume success, they always seem to trip before they cross the finish line. They epitomize the idea of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” in consistently failing when the odds clearly seem to be in their favor. When this happens, you can almost hear them singing a blues riff, perhaps from Born Under a Bad Sign by Cream:
“Born under a bad sign.
I been down since I began to crawl.
If it wasn’t for bad luck,
I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”
But, is it “bad luck,” or the cumulative effect of choices made over a lifetime? I am of the belief that chronic failure is a learned condition, and requires a certain degree of misspent skill to maintain that negative paradigm, just as much as the habitual winner requires skill to maintain his positive momentum, against the odds. This pattern will reveal itself, I think, in the choices one makes throughout one’s life, where they opt for the “easy way,” versus the path that requires preparation, effort and follow-through. Another pattern, unfortunately, is that of self-sabotage through habits and practices that undermine our efforts to succeed. You can be blessed with good DNA, and even that fabled “silver spoon in your mouth,” but if you make rotten choices in life, you’ll find that even with the best of tools to work with, without purpose, desire and follow through, it’s all for naught.
Unfortunately for us, the ne’er-do-wells of the world have a deleterious effect on those around them, dragging us into the dramas and traumas of their lives that are of their own making. That is, if you allow them to. Just as what we know as the “psychic vampire” can play upon the emotions of their victims, the chronic failure can also be draining to his/her victim’s momentum in life and the levels of success that they might attain. The old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together” has meaning in that those of us who work our plans to become successful and good providers for our families find support in those who share the same values as we do, and it is amongst those people we can gain positive benefits from our investments in time, information, skill sharing and emotional support. The best that we can expect from those who wallow in their failure is a sense of depression in watching their consistent failure.
I’m not going to waste your time trying to give you my personal pathway to success, because if you’re a ne’er-do-well, I’d only be wasting my time and yours as well. To be perfectly honest with you, there are people that simply can’t muster the wherewithal to get ahead and thrive. Be it a problem in genetics, in philosophy, or a simple deficiency in one’s survival imperative, there are some who just can’t or wont put in the effort needed to make their mark in the world. The world is littered with the bleached bones of those who’ve fallen behind. Their demise can at best provide a guidepost leading to the direction of their failure, or inspiration and motivation for others to avoid their missteps on the evolutionary road to survivability.
We all fail from time to time, and one might even speculate that those who NEVER fail never truly try, but go for the low hanging fruit of diminished expectations. True success requires false starts and mistakes that eventually show us the way to succeed and thrive. However, one must resist the siren call of entitlement without the elements of effort and merit.
Success, like failure, requires practice and a compatible skill set. It probably doesn’t matter to a habitual loser, but for those of you who care about the finer things in life that success can bring, Dr. Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D, writing for Psychology Today, has identified “Ten Ways to Snatch Victory from the Jaws of Defeat.” I’ll present them for those of you who are sincerely trying to succeed in life, and hopefully there might be some “trickle down effect” for those ne’er-do-wells who happen to read them as well. So, here for your consideration is Dr. Robinson’s list for success:
- Grow a thick skin and expect rejections and setbacks. Commit yourself in advance to facing the many “smackdowns” you will encounter, like all successful people do.
- Ditch the desire for comfort and be willing to go to the edge of your emotional pain so you can be fully present with what lays beyond the barrier.
- Cultivate creative sustainability. Think of yourself as an elastic band that bends and stretches to a certain point before you spring back higher than you fall.
- Turn roadblocks into steppingstones. Pinpoint opportunity contained in difficulty. Make it a goal to use negative challenges—no matter how painful, frustrating, big or small—as lessons from which to learn. Ask, “What can I manage or overcome here?” or “How can I turn this matter around to my advantage?”
- Refer to previous experience. Reflect on past obstacles you’ve overcome. Point to lessons learned and underscore ways you have grown stronger through life’s hard knocks.
- Take risks. Find that one place in your life where you’ve been hiding, then stick your neck out from your comfort zone. Ask what edge you can go to. Seek challenging experiences that help you bloom instead of low-risk situations that keep you safe in a bud.
- Identify self-doubts that have crippled you from growing fully. Harness them—instead of running from them—and channel them into useful fuel so they don’t paralyze you.
- Stay off the roller coaster. Manage the ups-and-downs by treating success and defeat equally. Celebrate the highs but don’t take them anymore seriously than the lows, and don’t take downturns anymore seriously than upswings.
- Catch yourself when you fall. After a setback or discouraging situation, you bounce back quicker when you support yourself with loving-kindness. Instead of kicking yourself when you’re down, be on your own side, wish yourself well, and be your best advocate as you progress on your journey to success.
- Eschew the what-the-hell effect. This attitude only adds insult to injury. You’re never defeated until you quit. Face letdowns by taking the towel you want to throw in and use it to wipe the sweat off your face then hop back into the saddle on your journey to success.
In the minds of many, if you are on the Left Hand Path, you already have at least two strikes against you, so don’t expect those who identify with being on the Right Hand Path to give you any credit for any successes you have or will gain. By the same token, don’t delude yourself into thinking that by simply choosing this path less followed, you’re automatically beneficiary to the magical cache of those who have come before. There is gold to be mined and there are rewards to be gained in success and the benefits of being a winner in life, but it’s going to require commitment and effort and tenacity on your part. If you can’t promise yourself that you’ll do what’s necessary to succeed, then perhaps the effort is beyond your capability. You’ll never know until you try, try, and try again.