by Lance Ekum on · 22 comments

Creative Commons License photo credit: jugrote
“But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats.  No one can avoid them.  But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Defeat. We’ve all been there. That moment when we’ve lost something we really wanted. Maybe it was a big game you played in as a child. Or maybe it was a job promotion you were working toward. Or maybe it was your moment to perform on stage. Or maybe it was the new life your wedding would bring. Or maybe it was the life of a loved one.

Defeat. We’ve all been there, and we’ll be there again. I was there this past weekend. The soccer team I coach was playing in a tournament at our village’s summer festival. We had a team of excited nine year old boys, ready to conquer the world (or, at least the first team we played). Were we ever in for a surprise. As a team, we have usually done pretty good – win a few, lose a few. But most games are fairly close. Not today. The other team was much more prepared and sharp. And before we knew it, we were down by nearly ten goals. By halftime, our boys were exhausted and defeated. And we still had the second half to play. We went back out, and as the game wore on, you could just see our team giving up. It was the most difficult game I have coached. A day that had started so positive, had quickly turned dark.

After the game, we talked about our effort, and how we can’t give up. Even in the face of insurmountable odds. We were there to play, and that’s what we do for the full fifty minutes. We left the game with our heads hanging a little lower than I wanted. And, we still had another game in a couple of hours.

The resiliency of kids! They bounced back for the second game. For the most part, everyone had seemed to have moved on from our earlier loss (except for me). In the end, we also lost the second game, but it was a much closer (and more fun) game.

Defeat. Why couldn’t I give it up? I was stuck on the fact that the other team was older than us, probably played in a more select soccer league during the regular season, and just plain played harder out there.

Defeat. I wanted to win. And I felt like we were ganged up on by a team that was better and older. And I didn’t think it was fair. But the truth is, that’s life. Sometimes we’ll be in situations where life doesn’t seem fair, and we’ll lose. And this can be difficult. Difficult to accept. Difficult to get over.

There are great lessons we learn in defeat. Probably greater lessons than those we learn in victory. If we are open to seeing and accepting these lessons. So, look at defeat as an opportunity to learn and grow. The fields of defeat are filled with many life lessons.

After some time to reflect on our soccer defeat, I feel more insecure as a coach. But I’m looking at that as a good thing. Good in that I know we have so much room for improvement. And that will be my job as we go into the fall season. Find ways to develop our players so they can compete at a higher level. And help them to understand that what makes us great is working together as a team and not giving up.

Defeat. Embrace your defeats. To this I don’t mean that I hope you lose your job, or don’t get to play in a championship game, or have a broken marriage. To this I mean that when defeat finds you, embrace the opportunity to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Make a real effort to understand what happened, and look for ways you can improve.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

So, dare the mighty things you desire in your life.  Go out there and live.  Know that sometimes you will be defeated in some of the things you want most.  And know that that is ok.  It makes our lives richer to have experienced failure and success.  Your life is yours to live – live it to the fullest!

Lance writes stories from his heart, aiming to inspire and motivate, as you align more fully with YOUR true peak. When he's not here, you can find him hanging out with his family, riding a bike, or just generally acting goofy.   Sign up for the Thoughts from the Treehouse newsletter and get additional inspiration in your email inbox!
Lance Ekum
View all posts by Lance Ekum
(Visited 55 times, 1 visits today)

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Salinas July 18, 2008 at 3:42 pm

“Embrace your defeats. To this I don’t mean that I hope you lose your job, or don’t get to play in a championship game, or have a broken marriage. To this I mean that when defeat finds you, embrace the opportunity to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Make a real effort to understand what happened, and look for ways you can improve.” Very well said…excellent post!


Urban Panther July 18, 2008 at 4:42 pm

I just discovered Paulo Coehlo. The Urbane Lion introduced him to me, and I have read the Pilgramage and the Alchemist. Looking forward to reading more.

The Ten Year Old plays soccer and they totally got trounced at the last game. It was interesting to see the different reactions. One boy was in tears mid way through the game, but he also happens to have a father who berates him on all his bad plays. The Ten Year Old actually scored a goal for the other team, because the ball bounced off his thumb! He shook his head, but I was proud to see him admit what had happened to a fellow team mate and then laugh it off. But then the Lion gives the Ten Year Old a big hug after each game. It’s an awesome responsibility teaching our children to handle defeat well when we often struggle with it ourselves.


Ricardo Bueno July 18, 2008 at 8:50 pm

“There are great lessons we learn in defeat. Probably greater lessons than those we learn in victory.” — Lanceman

I couldn’t agree more! Succeeding in life is about how you can get up and keep pushing forward when life knocks you down. These moments when life knocks us down is a test of our strength. So embrace it with open arms…learn from it….become a better, stronger person.


Lanceman July 18, 2008 at 9:33 pm

@Mark – Thanks much!

@Urban Panther – I’d say your ten year old has the right attitude. And it is also interesting to see how other parents react in situations like this. I think it goes a long way toward how their child acts as well. There are many lessons to be learned at sporting events like this aren’t there.

@Ricardo – Thanks, and well said on your part as well! It really is about how we get up and being knocked down – I like that.


Jarrod - Warrior Development July 18, 2008 at 10:52 pm

Learn in defeat. Learn in victory.

There is no victory or defeat, only learning.


Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map July 19, 2008 at 12:05 am

I’m in luck. I seem to be reading more stories this morning that inspires me. And yours certainly did its job!

I sure like what you said that there are more lessons in defeat than in wins. You’ve also displayed much courage by revealing that the boys in your team had a better attitude than you did, as a coach. Your honesty is refreshing!

Stumbled in the name of truth, courage, and fearlessness.



Michelle July 19, 2008 at 12:19 am

Have you seen JK Rowlings commencement speech at Harvard University. It is a wonderful compliment to this post. She talks about failure and the importance of being able to handle failure in our lives, and the importance of it so we can know what it is like to succeed in climbing out of it and beyond it. It truly was a great speech I thought!

If you would like to keep reading my blog please email me at mkdsmall[at]gmail[dot]com. I love your comment but have had to make my blog invite only for several reasons I will spare you on.


Michelle July 19, 2008 at 12:20 am

Ahh here is the link to JK Rowling’s speech


Sara at On Simplicity July 19, 2008 at 1:13 am

I really love the quotes you chose! The idea of embracing defeat as a sign that you’re really living is a fantastic one.

I think defeat is easier for kids because their options are limitless. As adults, we may feel that each defeat is a permanently closed door. Often, I’m sure, that’s not the case and opportunities abound.


Davina July 19, 2008 at 1:18 am

Hi Lance. In this blog you’re being a Life Coach for yourself and your bloggers, rather than a soccer coach 🙂

I get the feeling that you actually took more “learning” from that loss than you would have a “win”. So goes that old saying…”It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”

I’ve failed big time this year. Started a business in January and haven’t had 1 client. But where I failed was in not knowing myself well enough and being connected to my passion. That was a big lesson.


Linda Abbit July 19, 2008 at 1:24 am

Dear Lance,

You are a true champion in sharing your analysis of defeat — as a coach and as a human being!

This web site came to mind as I was reading:

We went through the process of youth sports with our son for many years and know well the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Hope this comment gets through. I just sent one similar & got that dang error message again. Fingers crossed, here goes . . . .


Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach July 19, 2008 at 6:02 am

I always view ‘defeat’ as one’s guardian angel saying, okay, I have some critical life lessons for you to learn – what does it take for me to bonk you over the head and scream, listen up?

I’ve learned far more from defeat and failures than one would imagine…and every lesson built up my then-future success.

Data points, Barbara


Lanceman July 19, 2008 at 6:35 am

@Jarrod – Well said. We can always learn.

@Evelyn – Thank you. Sometimes as adults, I think we let our pride get in the way, and our attitude is affected. Well, mine is anyway.

@Michelle – I have watched that clip, and love it! After seeing it, I had a lot more respect for someone I only knew because my kids were reading her books. She is an inspiration and really showed her “don’t quit” attitude. Thanks for sharing the link here!

@Sara – Well, that’s an excellent point! The door may not really be closed, but it sure can look like it sometimes. And, as adults, that’s enough for us to consider it permanently closed.

@Davina – Thanks! We can sure learn a lot from our life’s experiences, if we just let ourselves, huh? It sounds like you’ve been learning much about yourself this year, as well. Good for you. I’m sure that will lead to the success you desire!

@Linda – Hey, it made it through!!! And thanks for building me up so much! I’ll check out the website, thanks for sharing.

@Barbara Ling – Well, I like that way of looking at it – like our guardian angel. Sometimes we just have to be hit in the head with this stuff I guess! Thanks for stopping by!


RooBabs July 19, 2008 at 9:06 am

Hi, and thanks for commenting on my site.

I love the concept of learning lessons from defeat (and sometimes more than from a victory). There’s a quote from Dr. David Elkind (a psychologist) that says, “We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope.” It’s maybe not quite as uplifting as your take, but as someone who has suffered through depression and anxiety, it’s a reminder that if nothing else, the hard times teach us how to deal and get over the rough patches. Plus, they help us to better appreciate the good times and our successes.

Your site is really great. I look forward to reading more.


Lanceman July 19, 2008 at 9:10 am

@RooBabs – We sure can learn a lot from the hard times, can’t we — if we just let ourselves. Thanks for stopping by!


Bamboo Forest July 19, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Theodore Roosevelt said it best. The bottom line is defeat is inevitable. Well, almost. I suppose if one never applied themselves and tried to gain new territory in life, they would never be defeated. But they would also guarantee that they would never know victory. And that, is the greatest defeat of all.


Aart Hilal July 19, 2008 at 3:21 pm


I’m a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He’s the first best-selling author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

Have a nice day!



Lanceman July 19, 2008 at 4:43 pm

@Bamboo Forest – Very well said. If we know no defeat, then we really haven’t lived.

@Aart – Thanks for stopping by!


Marelisa July 19, 2008 at 11:22 pm

I think playing sports is great for little kids precisely because it helps them learn things such as team work, not giving up, practice, analyzing each game so they can see what they did wrong and can improve the next time, how to lose gracefully, and how to win gracefully. It’s so great that you’re a soccer coach Lance. I’m sure you’re having a great impact in these kids’ lives.


Lanceman July 20, 2008 at 4:13 am

Marelisa, thanks for the kind comments. I agree that there is much that kids can learn through sports, whether they win or lose. As well, I think there is also a lot that parents can learn from kids playing sports, but we just need to be open to seeing it.


Irene | Light Beckons July 21, 2008 at 7:23 am

Hi Lance, this is my first visit to your site, and I like it! 🙂 I agree we can learn great lessons from defeats. I also feel that kids can teach us great lessons too … such as the art of “bouncing back” in no time!


Lanceman July 21, 2008 at 9:51 am

Irene, thanks for stopping by! Kids sometimes have a much better attitude about defeat than adults. I’ve certainly learned (and continue to learn) from the kids in my life.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: