Losing The Fear Of Losing
I found something down at the bottom. It’s called resilience.
I will admit that lately, I’ve been addicted to a game called Golf Clash. It is by far the best golf game I’ve ever played. I’ve always enjoyed watching the graceful arcs of little balls flying through the air or rolling on the green on TV. I like to see how spin works on a ball, and how the ball can be made to come to a stop with backspin. Golf Clash is a very nice simulation of that action.
At first, I thought it was a waste of my time, and it probably still is. But I’m using it as an opportunity to learn something. I’m learning how to consciously practice resilience by playing this game.
When I first started out, I won a few “coins” in the game. And over time, I got better at the game and then I built up a small fortune of coins. Each game is a golfing duel with another person, a live person, somewhere out there, on the internet. I could use these coins to bet or pay “the entrance fee” for each duel.
As I played, I began to notice a pattern, a sort of seesaw, up and down. I’d win some and I’d lose some. Sometimes I’d lose many games in a row, but I’d always come back up again. I never actually got down to zero. As my gameplay got better, I was matched with better players. As my gameplay suffered, I was matched with worse players, some worse than I, and I tended to win.
I see this game as a nice little metaphor for life. While I was playing last night, well into the wee hours of the morning, I was thinking about this metaphor. I looked back on my life, and I’d see that somehow, I’d always have enough of what I needed to get by. There was this sort of ground state. As long as I kept working, there was money. And as long as I had money, I could support myself. I worked, put money in the bank, spent some of it, saved some of it, and kept going.
I’ve noticed something else in that game. I’d lose a match, win a match. But I kept going up in the leaderboard because there, they only count what you win, not what you lose. I’ve noticed that in order to have a positive outlook on life, I have to do that. Yes, I’ve taken a few lumps here and there, but I always have something left over, something that you can’t take away. Something that I can’t leave behind. I’ve found a way to focus on what I have, not what I’ve lost.
I can recall someone saying, “God never gives you more trouble than you can handle.” I look back on my life and I see that, too. The challenges, the trouble, the difficult days — what some people call “bad days”- for me, they were never more than I could handle. Somehow, I managed to deal with challenges or I got help dealing with difficulty. I had friends and family in places that could help me.
I’ve also noticed something about people who are successful. Some of them have spent time being really poor. I once knew a landscaper who intentionally put all of his belongings into storage and spent a year or two being homeless. He just wanted to see if he could go from being homeless to having a home. I also know of another person who spent time being homeless just to see if he could make it. When The Beatles started, they lived out of their car, rented rooms with common showers and restrooms, and one of the rooms didn’t even have a window. All of these people exposed themselves to adversity, they exposed themselves to the bottom.
I’ve known and met people who were alcoholics, people who lost everything, only to rise up again. Some of them built successful businesses in their recovery. I think that after seeing the bottom, they lost the fear of losing. Even the comedian George Burns once said: “You always bounce when you hit bottom.” He lived to be 100 years old. That’s evidence of resilience.
I’ve been technically homeless a few times in my life. I’ve seen the bottom first hand and second hand, and I believe there is something we can learn from the bottom.
The first thing I noticed near the bottom is that there is an ecosystem that supports all of life here on earth. Until we lose that, we’re not going to hit bottom anytime soon as a species. I doubt the number of humans will hit zero anytime soon.
But if we really think about it, all of these things, the houses, the TVs, the fast cars, the bank accounts, and shares of Tesla, none of that is required for our survival. Even if we lose all of that, there is still air to breathe, water to drink, and as long as there is room to spare, we will live. And we have each other.
About a billion people on the planet do not even have a toilet to use. They just have a hole in the ground. Their home is not a home in the sense that you and I think of a home. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in a very comfortable spot somewhere, sheltered from the weather, from the elements, perhaps reading in the quiet comfort of your home. If you lost that, you’d still live.
So I’m reminded that those people, at the bottom, they’re still living. They still have family and friends. I’d venture to say that their family and friends are far more visible to them on the outside than if they were living inside a home. They know who their friends are because even when they’re poor, their friends are still there. My wife and I have been poor together. She’s still here.
We think we need a home, two cars, and a couple of TVs just to live. We don’t. All that stuff is a convenience. And it takes up space in our minds. We have to give that stuff space in our minds to enjoy it.
This isn’t to say that I’d intentionally go out and find a way to lose what I have right now just to prove a point. That would be terribly inconvenient for me and my family. I’m here to support my family. Besides, I’ve seen plenty of people lose it all only to come back up again. I’m just trying to put all of this into perspective. I’m trying to understand resilience.
See, when I started playing that golf game, I had got to a point where I didn’t have enough coins left to play another match. Then I noticed that I could just watch ads to get more coins. So I watched a few ads, got more coins and kept playing. There was always an out. There was a safety net. Life has a safety net. Life on this planet is tenacious. It knows how to survive the elements. We came from that safety net.
For humans, that safety net is us, we have each other.
Our resilience comes from knowing that we can bounce back from the bottom. Our resilience comes from knowing that we can still survive a loss, a hit, or a setback. And we all came from the bottom, literally. When we’re born, we own nothing, we’ve earned nothing, we can’t make anyone do anything for us. And still, we are. We are born into a safety net, the warm bosom of mother, wrapped in blankets with mother and kept close. This is how we know we have each other.
That safety net is the source of our resilience. Look around at the entrepreneurs of life. You may notice that many of them already had support. Ivanka Trump, with her many businesses, can fail because she will always have her family support her. The same is true of her siblings. Business is easy when you know you can recover from failure. They have each other.
This is what I think about when I see successful people. I know that their resilience comes from somewhere. It could be that they’ve survived the bottom, or they have a family to support them and encourage them. Their success came when they lost the fear of losing.