NYX Endurance

The Invitation of Defeat

As many of us are wrapping up our race seasons and beginning to plan for 2023, I’d like to extend this invitation to consider an alternative foundation from which to explore. Most of us have dedicated considerable acrage of our mental landscapes to long-term goals. We can see the distant horizon, and we assemble the roadmap to take us there. Of course it is admirable to achieve our charted ambitions. Of course we should be proud of the discipline and commitment that our linear forward trajectory requires of us. 

But consider for a moment that victory may be a target too small for us. What if the 13th century Persian mystic, Rumi, was onto something when he mused that the purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things?  

This newsletter comes out on 9/29, a week before Chris Nikic attempts to become the first person with Downs Syndrome to finish the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. In the preceding days, Chris has been out on the Queen K on his bike, getting first hand experience with the brutality of those infamous crosswinds. He got knocked off his bike several times. Defeat looms largely. 

This investigation into the valley of defeat is not an invitation to pack your bags and head home just because the odds are stacked against you. The odds will always be stacked against you when you’re attempting something worthy of your best efforts. 

So how do we recognize this invitation in our own lives?

Some of you may already know that you have outgrown your old goals and you’re having trouble finding a path forward that clicks. Others of you, upon internal investigation, may find that instead of playing to learn and grow, you’ve settled for playing not to lose. And still others may just simply feel defeated lately. Maybe you’ve fallen short of a precious goal or the “losses” in life appear to be piling up against you. Sometimes our great aspirations seem to be drifting farther out of reach despite our best efforts to stay the course. Even when our great aspirations are just to feel “ok.” 

No matter how you arrived here, please allow me to initiate you onto the journey of descent. Instead of climbing and striving and reaching towards the light, this path is one of coming down – a journey to the depths – out of our thoughts and ideas of how things should be, and down into our bodies. The first, necessary step if you are willing to take it, is to settle in to being lost. With the compass of your old goals falling away, it becomes easier to quiet down inside. Take it from someone who is perpetually lost that there is value here in the darkness. Not knowing where we’re going stops us from taking false directions and prompts us to pay close attention to our surroundings. 

If you agree to join me, you are consenting to consciously choose growth-stimulating conflicts and to accept your life as open-ended and unpredictable. In other words, you are agreeing to live in the present and to accept the world as it is, rather than how you would like it to be. 

I can’t tell you where to go or what to choose. And as of now, neither can you. This descent is a process of subtraction, rather than addition. Only from space can newness emerge. And so it is here that I must leave you, my dear travelers, but only in terms of providing guidance and direction. This is undoubtedly an individual journey, but make no mistake regarding your solitude. The shame-inducing lie that we are sold about defeat is that it renders us outcasts. If you take nothing else from this invocation, let it tear through your loneliness. Victory requires separation; defeat emancipates us from it. 

It is impossible to say whether Chris Nikic will cross the finish line on his first attempt at the Ironman World Championship. If we could determine our outcomes ahead of time, we would be saved from the imperative to engage with this life, with all of its perilous uncertainty. When Chris was asked, “Who is going to win today – the wind or your dreams?” he replied without hesitation, “my dreams.” And I think we all inherently understand that his response has almost nothing to do with the outcome. Because even if he fails to reach his goal on Saturday, defeat in pursuit of a worthy endeavor never renders us small or less powerful than before. Playing not to lose makes us small. Victory that requires nothing from us keeps us small. 

My point here is that this world is alive. Vibrantly, passionately, soul-quenchingly alive. Breathing through us. Asking to meet and be met by us. And defeat is a prime meeting place, ripe with enchantment.

Laura Marcoux

CO-FOUNDER, COACH, CHIEF BRAND WARRIOR / Laura is the deep thinker. She knows how to help you define your “why,” and lead from that clarity of purpose. This will be nothing short of an uprising.
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