Why Defeat is Just the Beginning

Strange as this may sound, my personal experience with being “utterly defeated” didn’t come until I was 30. Obviously I had previously felt failure, had previously felt wronged, and had previously been motivated to incrementally improve my life. The type of aspirations I had for myself, the way I drove myself as an “A-Type” ensured that I labelled anything “imperfect” as a defeat or an anomaly.

However, my entire context of failure and defeat got reset the day I stood beside my 24 year old brother’s hospital bed in an intensive care unit and watched him breath his last breath. I can still remember the symphony of beeps and blasts coming from the monitors and machines, the tears, the utter disbelief. His frail body and chest coming to a final rest, tears streaming, the inevitable smacked me in the face. A wave of devastation, an utter lack of control, and a sickness to my very core swept over my body.

Unable to cope, I threw up in a hospital bathroom for a good 10 minutes…..

This marked the very beginning of a new era for me. A new way of thinking, a new way of living. All the cliches that have ever been written about seizing the day or living for happiness  sunk in violently and without further review.

If my brother’s example was to mean something, it would be that the new number 1 priority for me would be health. It would be balance. It would be fairness and justice. It would be the realization that life is frail, and that it was time to make myself healthy, to make my family healthy and to keep it that way.

It wasn’t a cake walk. For the next few months, my emotions were a nuclear winter.

I dragged myself to the gym – embarrassed, ashamed, weak, tired and frail, I started the process of lifting weights. I bought myself a nice car in rebel against the notion that I might die tomorrow, why was I saving all my money? I scheduled laser eye surgery, and the fitment of braces, 2 things I’d postponed and were frankly afraid to do for what seemed to be obvious health reasons (fear of mistakes). Now, I figured if they made a mistake or I suffered as a result, ‘meh who cares’, I didn’t feel anything inside anyways.

The same principles applied to my jaunts riding motorcycles, doing motorcycle courses, going on trips to asia, learning how to snowboard. The list of things I checked off the bucket list are immense, all approached with reckless abandon and disregard for personal safety.

My goal was to find my new self, a renewed confidence, a place where I felt that I had left no rock un-turned in pursuit of love (love of self first), life (leave no pursuit untouched) and enlightenment (how can I find my new safe place inside my mind?).

Remnants of my very high strung and entitled self remain, however, I am happy to report that I am on my way to becoming a better person, tempered by an event that I could not control. My focus on health has paid off in many ways, I no longer feel ashamed in the gym as I can definitely do my fair share of lifting and grunting.

I’ve also learned that the number 1 thing you can do is control yourself. The number 2 thing is to learn to love, to learn to tolerate, and to never write anybody off. I learned that we can all change, we can all grow, and we can all find an opportunity to remake ourselves.

This was how my utter defeat, literally became a new beginning, I hope you take the challenge when defeat or failure comes your way.

7 thoughts on “Why Defeat is Just the Beginning

  1. Ken,

    Beautiful, beautiful post. Probably took some balls and stirred some emotion putting your thoughts onto paper, but it was inspiring. I’m so happy for you and what you’ve been able to overcome/accomplish and hope our paths will cross again soon!

    Wags (yes… I surrendered to the ‘wags’)

  2. Kenneth,

    Touching story about your brother and how that catalyzed your “carpe diem” moment. 4 days ago, I was in a car accident– 9 car pileup that send 10 people to the hospital. And I had a “wake up” call, too.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. May you be more than “just another geek” or student of social media.

    Dennis

  3. Kenneth, that’s a truly powerful post. Not often I read a blog that I know will stay with me for more than just the next hour or two. Thanks for sharing with such candor. I
    I’ll bet your brother would be proud of you for allowing your life to be so positively changed by such a profound loss. He leaves quite a legacy in you.

  4. Kenneth — glad you found me in Twitter. I was glued to the screen until the end of this post. I can’t improve on your other commenters. Beautiful, soulful, riveting. You have great writing ability. Hope it helped you cope with your dear brother’s untimely death.

  5. Kenneth, what a beautiful and inspired post. It reminded me very much of a ceremony maker and palliative care worker Stephen Jenkinson and his quote:

    “Not success…not growth…not happiness. The cradle of your love of life is death.”

    The National Film Board features a documentary about him called Griefwalker. His web site is http://www.orphanwisdom.com/ if you’re interested.

    A pleasure to meet you. Again, so inspired by this story. Thank you for writing it.

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