反败为胜的艺术The Art of Turning Losing into Winning

2017-08-04 23:15:24

“每一次失败,无论大小,也不管影响范围如何,都为重整旗鼓再次出发敞开了机遇之门。”从失败中重生、开启全新生活,让失败磨练我们的智慧和美德,我们终究会离成功更近,也会变得更加完善。

◎ By David G. Allan 译 / 崔丞

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Nobody likes to lose. Whether it’s a game of poker, the affections of another or an election, a loss can feel like an embarrassing stain that won’t come out. Or like a medical condition we need to quickly treat with a rematch, with a pint of ice cream or by declaring the whole thing rigged1).

But there are many silver linings in the dark clouds of loss2), and when you total them up, losing can start to look a lot more like winning.

In 1960, Richard Nixon lost a very close and bitter presidential election amid accusations (by others, not himself) of voter fraud in some states. But Nixon took the high road3): “I want Senator Kennedy to know, and I want all of you to know, that ... (if) he does become our next president, that he will have my wholehearted support and yours, too.” It was a calculated move that paved the way to his election in 1968. He could have made a stink4), but instead he took a longer view and saw the seeds of a comeback planted in the soil of that defeat.

Every loss, no matter the size and scope, opens opportunities to still come out ahead. That’s not just good for your ego; it’s just plain good for you.

The Act of Concession5)

Common courtesy calls for a handshake between winner and loser after a contest. It’s a simple gesture that holds a lot of meaning. It is an exercise in defusing any lingering animosity6). It makes it possible for both parties to move on with dignity.

To refuse to acknowledge the accomplishment of the winner is to give birth to a grudge7). And nothing good, for either side, ever comes out of a lingering grudge.

But the moment of concession is also a chance at redemption for the loser. It allows them to be a role model of humility and grace. It proves them nobler than their loss might suggest. Conceding is actually a power move demonstrating that you are not defined by losing. You are bigger than that.

“A tree is best measured when it is down, and so it is with people,” wrote the poet and author Carl Sandburg8), who won a Pulitzer Prize for a biography of Abraham Lincoln, a man who had his share of wins born out of deep losses.

To lose an election—a very public defeat that can be personally devastating—raises the stakes enormously. The act of concession there is both necessary for a peaceful transition of power and an opportunity for the loser to show everyone that he or she is sagacious9) enough to put the greater good above all else.

One of the best concession speeches ever given, presidential or otherwise, was delivered in 1952 by Adlai Stevenson10). “That which unites us as American citizens is far greater than that which divides us as political parties, ” he said. “I urge you all to give to General Eisenhower the support he will need to carry out the great tasks that lie before him. I pledge him mine.” The New Yorker’s political commentator Hendrik Hertzberg called Stevenson “the most beautiful loser.”

By contrast, Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the US women’s national soccer team, called her triumphant opponents “cowards” after her team lost to Sweden at the Olympic quarterfinal game in Rio in 2016. The rebuke11) to her unsportsmanlike behavior went beyond the ire12) of fans; the US Soccer Federation suspended her for six months and terminated her contract with the team. For failing to transcend her loss, she doubled it.

Losing Is LearningAnyone who plays chess, or nearly any game of strategy, knows that the more you play, the more you learn how to win. And if you play someone who is better than you (and therefore find yourself mostly losing), you will learn a lot more about winning. Every defeat brings you one step closer to success.

Thinking about loss that way as chess pieces on the board is a helpful metaphor for making losing less personal, too. Losing some contest doesn’t make you a loser. You are still you, not whatever challenge was lost.

The sooner you can dust yourself off and figure out why you lost, the sooner you’ll be able to refocus on what matters and—now more experienced—win. In a Buddhist context, we will continue to be reincarnated13) until we can break the cycle of unknowing; each of our lives holding the keys to one door closer to enlightenment or another farther away.

Winning and Losing Are False Distinctions

The idea that losing is a necessary part of winning begins to blur the lines of what is a loss and what is a win. A victory can have unforeseen consequences that feel more like a loss over time (which is why people say “be careful what you wish for”). And, conversely, the loser now will be later to win, as Bob Dylan put it.

There are countless examples of this phenomenon. Many lottery winners face personal difficulties they attribute to their windfall14). Individuals with devastating mental and physical challenges often describe how overcoming them made them stronger for it. And maybe that awful breakup made it possible to find true love.

This yin-and-yang way of seeing the world, in which good and bad are so entwined15) that they are contained in one another, is beautifully illustrated in an ancient Taoist story about a farmer whose horse runs away. The lost horse, which seems like a setback, causes something that seems like an advantage, which then causes something that seems bad and so on.

The point is that we should really question the reality of a win or loss, knowing that time and circumstance have a way of making them become the opposite.

Rise from the AshesLosing can also be the catalyst of a new beginning. The higher the stakes of the loss, the greater opening it creates for a restart, a reinvention, a fresh beginning in another direction.

The phoenix is the mascot16) of winning losers everywhere. Take a moment to pause in the ashes of a loss to contemplate what new, amazing life can grow out of it. That’s a powerful consolation17) prize.

Jimmy Carter is beloved the world over despite a presidency that experts and conventional wisdom deemed a failure. His legacy is solidified by a post-presidential life of great deeds including international diplomacy, building homes for the homeless and nearly eradicating deadly diseases. Losing re-election in 1980 brought about a 36-year winning streak18).

True Grit

Finally, there are some virtues that grow more easily out of the compost of losing. Humility is an obvious one. Empathy is another, as loss creates bonds with others facing a similar loss. And when you expand your perspective and understanding around loss, you become wiser, another virtue to have in your resiliency tool kit.

Then there is grit. For even if there are no clear lessons learned from a loss or no upsides that later emerge, at the very least, you can learn how to deal with it more effectively. Because eventually, another loss will come, and you want to be ready.

The development of such fortitude19) is encapsulated by my favorite line in one of my favorite novels, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath20). The story chronicles the western migration of many farmers during the Great Depression21), a period of profound losing for many Americans.

One of the setbacks for the main characters, the Joad family, is when their car breaks down, again. They don’t have the means to fix it, and a pall is cast over22) the group until the grandmother snaps them out of it23). “This here bearing went out. We did’n’ know it was go in’, so we did’n’ worry none. Now she’s out an’ we’ll fix her. An’ by Christ that goes for the rest of it. ”

The thicker your skin24), the more perspective you have, the more you improve yourself—and the more you’ll be winning as you wrestle with losing.

1. rigged [rɪɡd] adj. (用舞弊手段)操纵的;被垄断的

2. silver linings in the dark clouds of loss:源自谚语“Every cloud has a silver lining”,意为“困境背后存在的希望”。

3. take the high road:采取最好(或最有把握)的途径

4. make a stink:强烈抱怨,大吵大闹

5. concession [kənˈseʃ(ə)n] n. 让步

6. animosity [ˌænɪˈmɒsəti] n. 仇恨,敌意;憎恶

7. grudge [ɡrʌdʒ] n. 怨恨,嫌恶;妒忌

8. Carl Sandburg:卡尔·桑德博格(1878~1967),诗人,传记作家,代表作品为《芝加哥诗集》和《林肯传》。

9. sagacious [səˈɡeɪʃəs] adj. 有远见的,精明的

10. Adlai Stevenson:阿德莱·史蒂文森(1900~1965),美国政治家,以其辩论技巧闻名,曾于1952年和1956年两次代表美国民主党参选美国总统,但皆败给艾森豪威尔,后被任命为美国驻联合国大使,在古巴导弹危机中发挥了重要作用。

11. rebuke [rɪˈbjuːk] n. 指责;训斥

12. ire [ˈaɪə(r] n. 愤怒,怒火,盛怒

13. reincarnate [ˌriːɪnkɑː(r)ˈneɪt] vt. 使转世化身

14. windfall [ˈwɪn(d)ˌfɔːl] n. 意外之财,意外获得的东西

15. entwine [ɪnˈtwaɪn] vt. 使交错,使纠缠,使紧密结合

16. mascot [ˈmæskɒt] n. 吉祥物

17. consolation [ˌkɒnsəˈleɪʃ(ə)n] n. 安慰,慰藉;慰问

18. streak [striːk] n. 一连串,一系列

19. fortitude [ˈfɔː(r)tɪtjuːd] n. 坚韧,刚毅

20. The Grapes of Wrath:《愤怒的葡萄》,美国现代小说家约翰·斯坦贝克创作的长篇小说,发表于1939年,该作品获得1940年美国普利策文学奖。

21. the Great Depression:大萧条时期,指1929年至1933年之间发源于美国并波及许多资本主义国家的经济危机。

22. cast a pall over:给……蒙上阴影

23. snap sb. out of it/sth.:(使)抛掉不愉快情绪,(使)摆脱郁闷心境

24. a thick skin:厚脸皮,不计较面子

没人喜欢失败。不论是打扑克牌,争取他人芳心还是参加选举,失败似乎是人们无法抹掉的尴尬污迹,又像是我们想快速疗愈的病情,方法可以是重赛、来一小杯冰淇淋或是宣称全程遭到操控。

可是失败的阴云背后也不乏美好的光亮,如果总结所有的失败,你会发现失败看起来更像是成功。

1960年,理查德·尼克松功败垂成,因某些州的选民舞弊而备受指责(不是他自责,是别人指责他),最终失掉了一场艰苦卓绝的总统竞选。然而尼克松却表现出高姿态:“我不仅希望肯尼迪参议员明白,也希望你们所有人都明白,如果他真的成了我们下一任总统,我定会全心全意支持他,你们也一定会支持他的。”精心策划的这一步为尼克松1968年的选举铺平了道路。他本可以因此发泄不满,可他却目光长远,在失败的土壤里播种下东山再起的希望。

每一次失败,无论大小,也不管影响范围如何,都为重整旗鼓再次出发敞开了机遇之门。这不仅有益于你的自尊,对你整个人都是极好的。

退让之举

一场比赛结束时,最常见的礼貌之举就是要输赢双方互相握手。这个动作简单却意味深长。那是化解哪怕一点点残留敌意的做法,使输赢双方都有可能体面地离开。

拒绝承认胜利者的成就便等于让积怨滋生。而徘徊不去的积怨对于输赢双方都是无益的。

但退让的瞬间对失败者来说也是补救的机会。让步使失败者化身为谦逊与优雅的典范,证明失败者或许比他们的失败所表明的自己更为崇高。这有力的一步虽退实进,说明失败证明不了你什么,你的格局要大得多。

“树只有在倒下时才最好测量,人亦如此。”作家兼诗人卡尔·桑德博格写下了这句话。他曾因撰写亚伯拉罕·林肯的传记赢得普利策奖。林肯屡败屡战,从惨败中获取了多次胜利。

输掉一场选举,在大庭广众之下被人击败,对个人来说是个重创,会极大地增加风险。这时的退让之举不仅对于和平的权力更迭是必要的,同时对于失败者来说也是个向众人展示的机会,证明了自己顾全大局的远见卓识。

1952年阿德莱·史蒂文森做的一次败选演说,在总统选举败选演说或是别的任何败选演说中堪称最佳。“让我们美国人民紧密地团结在一起的那种力量,比因为政党不同把我们分离的力量要大得多,”他说,“我呼吁大家全力支持艾森豪威尔将军,他需要大家的支持来承担起摆在眼前的伟大使命。我发誓会全力支持他。”《纽约客》的政治评论员亨德里克·赫茨伯格称史蒂文森为“最优雅的失败者”。

与之相反,在2016年里约奥运会女足四分之一决赛中,美国女足输给瑞典队后,守门员霍普·索罗称获胜方为“懦夫”。她这种毫无运动精神的行为招致了强烈的批评,批评的声音比球迷们的愤怒更激烈。美国足协宣布对她禁赛六个月并终止了她与球队的合同。霍普不仅没有超越失败,反而让失败加倍了。

失败是一种学习

下棋的人或是玩任何策略类游戏的人都知道,玩得越多,越知道如何获胜。而且如果与比你厉害的人玩(因此会发现自己多数时候都会输),你就更能学会如何获胜。每一次失败都让你距离成功更近一步。

像上面那样把失败视同在棋盘上布子儿,这个比喻有助于你在失掉比赛后不再自怨自艾。失掉某场比赛不会让你成为失败者。你还是那个你,任何挑战失利都无法定义你。

你越快重新振作起来并找出失败的原因,就越能再次快速聚焦重点(这时你的经验更丰富了),也会更快赢。佛学中讲,我们只有打破未知的循环,才能继续投胎转世;我们每一个生灵都拿着开启法门的钥匙,只是有的门距离智慧更近,有的距离更远。

胜败之分皆虚假

认为失败是通往成功的必经之路的这种看法模糊了失败与成功的界限。 胜利可能会有无法预知的后果,随着时间的推移这结果越发像失败(这也就是为什么人们说“小心你所期盼的东西”)。同时,反之亦然,此刻的失败者也许终将获胜,就像鲍勃·迪伦歌里唱的那样。

这种现象数不胜数。比如许多乐透赢家会面对个人困境,又把困境归咎于意外之财。有重大身心残疾的人常常会描述战胜这些残疾如何使他们更强大。还有,也许经历一场虐心的分手桥段才有可能找到真爱。

这种用阴阳辩证的眼光看待世界的方法——即好与坏就是这么彼此交织,你中有我,我中有你——在古代道家塞翁失马的故事中得到了完美的阐释。那匹丢失的马像是挫折,却引发了看似优势的东西,可接下来又会引发不好的东西,以此循环往复。

重点在于我们真正该探究输赢得失的真实情形,要明白时间和境遇会使得输赢得失异位。

浴火重生

失败也能引发新开端。失败的风险越大,越有可能另辟蹊径重新来过、再次创新、全新开始。

各地都把凤凰作为反败为胜者的象征。在落败的灰烬中花些工夫去思量,在这堆灰烬中能开出多么令人惊异而全新的生活之花啊。这才是慰藉心灵最有效的方法。

吉米·卡特深受世人爱戴,虽然专家们和常规思维认为他身为总统很失败。他不当总统后立下了丰功伟绩,他留下的遗产也因此得到了强化。他的功绩包括国际外交、帮无家可归者安家以及基本根除了致命性疾病。虽然他在1980年争取连任失败,但这次失败却带来了36年的连胜。

真实的勇气

最后,有一些美德之花更容易在失败这一肥料的滋养中生长出来。谦逊显然是其中之一。同理心也是,因为当其他人面对相似的失败时,你会与之惺惺相惜。同时,当你拓宽视野并全面理解失败时,你会变得更有智慧,你的韧劲工具箱里又收入另外一种美德。

接下来就是勇气。因为即使你无法从失败中明显地吸取教训,此后也没有什么优势凸显出来,但起码你能学到怎么更有效地处理这个问题。因为最终其他失败会接踵而至,而你也想做好准备迎接挑战。

在我最爱的一本小说——约翰·斯坦贝克的《愤怒的葡萄》中,我最喜欢的一句话对打造这种勇气进行了概括。小说按时间顺序描述了美国大萧条时期一些农工迁徙到西部谋生的故事。大萧条这段历史对于许多美国人来说都是一次彻底的失败。

主人公乔德一家经历了无数挫折,有一次他们的车又抛锚了,他们不知道用什么方法能修好,所有人都一筹莫展,直到祖母的一番话帮他们摆脱了郁闷情绪:“这里的轴承掉了,我们不知道,所以我们没什么可担心的。但现在这个问题出现了,我们要把它修好。老天,其他事情都这么办吧。”

你的脸皮越厚,你看问题的视角就越多样,你就越能自我完善,在与失败抗争时就越有可能取胜。

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