I enjoyed a History Channel presentation on Gladiator History & Times the other evening. It featured the story of the gladiator Verus. He was one of the only gladiators to have one of his fights written about blow by blow. He said he learned more from defeat than from victory.
Verus was captured by the Romans at the time of Emperor Vespasian. This was before the Colosseum was even built. Verus was forced to work in a quarry. As a slave he dreamed of freedom. When a gladiator trainer came and selected men from the quarry to train, Verus was overlooked. As the trainer was leaving Verus saw his chance for freedom disappearing. He started a fight with another slave. This caught the eye of the trainer who then chose both Verus and the slave he fought to join his stable of gladiators.
Verus trained and then had his first competition, which he lost. He said, “I learned a lot from my victories, but I learned more from defeat.” Verus learned that he didn’t like losing, and by winning he had a continued chance for life. A BBC1 preview says, “But he also learns that, with luck, skill and sheer courage, a star gladiator can become rich, attract admiring hordes of women and, ultimately, earn his freedom.” While losers didn’t always die when they fought, there was always the chance that they would die by the whim of the crowd or the Emperor. It was best to focus and fight with passion.
Verus fought in front of Emperor Titus, the son of Vespasian. He nearly lost. The Roman poet Martial described the fight, which ended in a draw, a rarity. He won his freedom.
If you are like most people you like to win. In business we’re probably not going to die by the whim of stockholders or CEOs, but still . . . losing is never much fun.
There have been awards I didn’t receive when I knew I deserved them. There have been elections I’ve lost that I should have won, and there have been bids I didn’t get. Losing cuts like a knife and sometimes wounds the soul, but it instills determination to come back and try again. As Richard M. Nixon said, “You’ve got to learn to survive a defeat. That’s when you develop character.”
You learn from your losses. You learn to work harder. Be smarter. Plan better. Take chances and calculated risks when you have to, but only when they seem to be in your favor. But the most important aspect of winning and losing is the constant effort to succeed.
Achievements give us our freedom. Sometimes we lose in our struggle . . . our life, but as Thomas Paine said, “It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same.”
Like Verus, we accept defeat and learn from it, so that we may achieve our goals. In the end victory sets us free.