(I leave today on an Alaska cruise out of Seattle with my wife Lita and all of the children, spouses and grandchildren – some forty people. When I return I start a lengthy jury trial so there may be some time without my positing in this blog. Thanks for reading it)
I think we need to protect against becoming too comfortable with losing. It should always be painful and so painful you want to want to learn how to avoid it in the future – to overcome it and not to run from it. I’m with Yoda in StarWars:
(The X-wing fighter has sunk, and only the tip of its nose shows above the lake’s surface.)
LUKE: Oh, no. We’ll never get it out now.Yoda stamps his foot in irritation.
YODA: So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?
Luke looks uncertainly out at the ship.
LUKE: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
YODA: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
LUKE: (focusing, quietly) All right, I’ll give it a try.
YODA: No! Try not. Do. Or do not!! There is no try….
When trial lawyers who are passionate about their client’s cause lose the case, their pain for the loss of their client is palpable. Dealing with losing is always agony and something we never get used to if we are competitive trial lawyers striving for our client’s rights. I’ve often said: losing hurts worse then winning feels good.
However, it does happen that we lose. Vince Lombardi, the great football coach, has said it this way:
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”
We suffer our defeats totally alone as trial lawyers. Galeazzo Ciano correctly has observed “Victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” There is no one who can really console you when you lose & it is something we need to grieve about all alone
The impact of losing is best expressed by the poem Casey at the bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer which has these lines:
“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright. The band is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are light; And somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout. But there’s no joy in Mudville – Mighty Case has struck out.”
It hurts so much to lose when you have given it your best. It is a sword through the heart. Our pride is hurt. As Aaron Nimzovich has said: “How can I lose to such an idiot?” That is our normal reaction. Nobody wants to lose either
The late great tennis pro Arthur Ashe has said:
“Every time you win, it diminishes the fear for a little bit. You never really cancel the fear of losing; you keep challenging it.” and
“You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important winning or losing.”
The courage to get up and carry on after a defeat is best expressed by these lines from the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley:
“Out of the night that covers me, black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed.”
Then there is the courage expressed in John Dryden’s poem Johnnie Armstrong Last Goodnight which puts it so well:
“Fight on, my merry men all, I’m a little wounded, but I am not slain. I will lay me down for to bleed awhile , then I’ll rise and fight with you again.”
Theodore Roosevelt was a man of courage. He knew that in spite of the pain of defeat, it’s better to try then not try. He put it this way: “It’s hard to fail, but it’s worse never to have tried to succeed. His most famous quote about this is from a speech he gave with these thoughts:
“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.”
But, in the end, the greatest lesson we need to learn is to put the loss in perspective. In the great scheme of things what is the real significance? Astronomer Carl Sagan painted the correct picture for us to use in putting it in perspective when he wrote:
“Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”