Sir William Slim
Defeat into Victory
When was the last time you were kicked in the teeth by life? It’s painful, isn’t it. Expectations and dreams are ripped apart and broken. Failure is rarely a fun experience, but what is important is to learn for it, and to move forwards. “Fall down six time, get up seven.”
I could reel out here a long list of failure that I have experienced at different times, but won’t- there is no need for it, except to say that being unable to continue with the 10 City Bridge Run last year due to injury from overtraining and lacking sufficient financial support was among the more recent failed endeavours. But now I am back running, and focused on starting the running of 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries all inside of one month on 1 March. Lessons have been learnt.
What is worse for many million people is the lack of choice in their situation. I’m thinking about those children and families who suffer as a result of child mortality. It is a cruel and bitter experience- I remember the toll it took on my brother and his wife. I can hardly begin to imagine what it must be like where there is a 1 in 4 chance of death occurring before the fifth birthday.
What will we say at the end of 2015 when all countries give an account of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals? The window of opportunity for change remains open. With a past career in the military, I draw inspiration from the words of Field Marshall Sir William Slim:
The only test of generalship is success, and I had succeeded in nothing that I had attempted…Defeat is bitter. Bitter to the common soldier, but trebly bitter to his general. The soldier may comfort himself with the thought that, whatever the result, he has done his duty faithfully and steadfastly, but the commander has failed in his duty if he has not won victory–for that is his duty. He has no other comparable to it. He will go over in his mind the events of the campaign. ‘Here,’ he will think, ‘I went wrong; here I took counsel of my fears when I should have been bold; there I should have waited to gather strength, not struck piecemeal; at such a moment I failed to grasp opportunity when it was presented to me.’ He will remember the soldiers whom he sent into the attack that failed and who did not come back. he will recall the look in the eyes of men who trusted him. ‘I have failed them,’ he will say to himself, ‘and failed my country!’ He will see himself for what he is – a defeated general. In a dark hour he will turn on himself and question the very foundations of his leadership and his manhood.
And then he must stop! For, if he is ever to command in battle again, he must shake off these regrets and stamp on them, as they claw at his will and his self-confidence. He must beat off these atacks he delivers against himself, and cast out the doubts born of failure. Forget them, and remember only the lessons to be learnt from defeat–they are more than from victory.