Lesson 117: True test in the face of defeat
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 2/21 ('Peak Performance')


Data, a most sophisticated android, loses in a computer strategy game to an alien master strategist. The loss leads Data to suspect that he may not be functioning correctly and he removes himself from duty.

Counselor Troi, realizing Data's dilemma, tells Data that one can handle defeat in 2 ways - either lose confidence in one's self or grow by learning from mistakes.

As Data is quickly all consumed by his self-imposed study of his supposed malfunction, Capt. Picard finally orders Data back to duty and advises him that it is quite possible to commit absolutely no mistakes and still lose - and that is not a weakness, that is life.


Losing is always a very hard pill to swallow. Accepting defeat after trying one's absolute best is quite often a disheartening task. However, the true test of one's mettle is always in the face of defeat, not victory.

In nearly every competitive encounter, the rules are usually organized such that the outcome of all events will result in one and only one winner. By default, this mandates that all of the other competitors must lose.

If one has done everything humanly possible, and even beyond at times, to prepare for the competition and still does not win, then there is absolutely no reason for reproach or self-recrimination.

Although the victors may receive the public accolades, the true winners of competitions are all those who tried their absolute best to win, regardless of the results. These true winners have accomplished something greater than the fleeting fame of victory - they have enhanced the quality of their lives permanently by improving themselves physically and/or intellectually.

Learning from one's losses and mistakes can bring about victory, even for legendary Kings.

As the old tale is told, Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, retreated to a cave after losing a battle for Scotland's freedom from the English.

Whilst in the cave, despondent and resigned to failure, he observed a spider trying to build a web. After falling down over and over again, failing in his attempts, the spider kept endeavoring, finally completing his web.

Invigorated by the spider's triumph, the King went forth and rallied his men against the English to the famous cry - 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again.'

It is by looking into the face of defeat, can one really find the true nature of one's own character.

This was very clearly stated, by the role portrayed by Hal Holbrook to Charlie Sheen's character in the movie Wall Street (1987), as the Sheen character is about to be arrested, with the words, 'Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him, at that moment, man finds his character and that is what keeps him out of the abyss.'

We should never fear defeat, except only, for not learning from it.

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