Want to win? Lose first.

I love failure. No, I don’t want it. Who does? But, when it does happen — and, human beings that we are, failure is bound to happen all the time — then I relish it.

Failure is good. Without it, we don’t learn. We don’t correct. We don’t see what we need to improve; we don’t become better. That’s what failure does. It teaches us. It helps us see the other side; helps us observe what we did right in the past; it humbles us.

I love failure. There’s a saying that goes: “If you don’t fail, then maybe you haven’t tried hard enough.” True. Too often, we’re afraid. We don’t take risks. We look at what can go wrong instead of what can be.

My favorite quotation? “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life…..    and that is why I succeed.”

This man made error after mistake after missed shot. And that’s why he’s Michael Jordan.

I love failure. This is why I love sports so much. It teaches us about life. It teaches us how to live life. Because in sports — as I shared two mornings ago at Bright Academy when I spoke during the Sports Fest Opening — in any game we play, there are always two possible outcomes: either you win or you lose.

There will always be a loser in sports. But when you lose, it doesn’t mean you’re a loser. It means you lost one game. You can use that failure as an impetus to practice harder, jump higher, run faster. You can win. In the next game. Yes you can. Because of failure.

I love failure. I like it so much that, two years ago in my speech before a full house crowd in Ayala Center Cebu — for the 29th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards, attended by Cebu’s top athletes and sports personalities; all of them champions — guess what topic I discussed?

Failure. You know why? Because as successful as those honorees were, they’ll fail. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in next month’s tournament. Maybe to a more inspired opponent who they handily beat before.

Failure is as human to you and me as the air, the darkness at night, the ball that is round. But failure is temporary. It’s what you do after you fail that’s essential. Do you rebound after? Do you smile, swallow the defeat, and vow to become a new You and better You? That’s when failure is good.

Remember Nadal? Out for seven months with a knee injury, is he now a failed athlete, a footnote to the greatness of Novak and Murray? Ha-ha. Never. In Rafa’s mind molded of Spanish steel, he’ll use that “failure” (he failed to compete in so many events, including failing to defend his Olympic gold medal) as extra motivational sauce to spice up his forehand. Watch out, Rog.

I love failure. Winners do. Of course, deep inside, they hate it. Champions despise it. But, when it does happen, the hurt is being transformed into a positive force.

Remember LeBron? And how the world conspired to hate him when he left Cleveland and transferred to Florida? He swallowed that humble Miami pie and, guess what, he’s now got an NBA ring and an Olympic gold to go with his MVP trophies.

I love failure. You should, too. Use it. Turn around your failed status. It’s all in your brain. Success is not due to your present circumstances — it’s up to your mind. If you want it; if you program your brain and change that dark state into a spirit that says I-can-do-it, then here’s the secret: You can do it.

Look at the Davis Cup team. Twice losers in our first two outings in Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, many said “dimalas ang Cebu.” We can’t win here. We’re not strong. Well, we beat Syria and will face Thailand this April 5 to 7. I was there the whole of last weekend and you can’t describe the extra joy and extra sweetness of victory — finally winning after losing.

That’s what failure does. It makes the victory tastier; it makes the come-from-behind win more savory; it means more. Relish failure. And be thankful to God when you rise and finally triumph. Because you will.

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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