Why A Moral Victory Can Be Better Than A Win

wipeoutIt’s raining in California and that means only one thing – ski season is on its way. And it was on a ski slope where I earned a moral victory and learned that losing can be better than winning.

I was living in Tahoe when my friend Pat asked if I was going to the ski instructor tryouts. Still snowplowing down slopes, I’d never considered it. But she convinced me that they weren’t looking for great skiers, they were looking for great instructors. If you were good at teaching they would teach you the skiing part. Okay, I’m in!

So there we were with 30 other wannabe ski instructors when Don, the head of the ski school at Sierra Ski Ranch, assembled us at the foot of the mountain. It was early November, there was little snow on the ground and the lifts weren’t running.

I should have known something bad was about to happen.

Don told us he needed to check our conditioning before we auditioned. Let’s go, he says, and starts hiking up the mountain. Being young, stubborn and fit, I fell in. We carried our boots, slung our skis and poles over our shoulders and began the trudge.

It wasn’t long before Pat, the good instructor/bad skier, fell behind. Since she was the reason I was there, I gallantly hoisted her skis and carried them as well.

The chivalry cost me, and I was spent by the time I reached the top of the hill. But still believing the dream, I donned my boots and skis and took my place in line.

For the next two hours I endured the most humiliating torture. I had no business being there and it was soon apparent to everyone. The other skiers were able to follow Don’s example and mimic his moves. I floundered and fell, but was too proud to quit. By the end of the tryout I was demoralized, beat and full-out embarrassed.

The dream was dead.

Don announced the winners and thanked the rest of us for turning out. I headed to the parking lot sore and defeated, and joined a very quiet Pat warming herself in the car. Not a word of our failure would ever be spoken between us.

Just as she began to pull out of the parking lot, there was a knock on my window.  I rolled it down and Don handed me his business card.

“You showed real guts out there and impressed the hell out of me,” he said. “Take some lessons this season and call me next year. I’ll give you another shot when you’re ready, and I’d be proud to have you on my squad here at Sierra.”

Holy crap, that was a game changer.

I hurt everywhere, but inside my chest was a warm glow. My ignorance got me into a situation I wasn’t prepared for. Stubborn pride wouldn’t let me quit, even when it was clear I had no chance. But holding Don’s business card made all the pain and shame evaporate in an instant.

That moral victory has been a huge win for me throughout my life. Whenever I’ve been outmatched and unprepared, the memory of that day has pulled me through.

Manic Impressives sometimes get ahead of their abilities. Their desire to impress can sometimes get them in over their heads. If they’re foolish and stubborn enough, they can pull a moral victory from the wreckage and spur themselves to greater success. When their egos are demolished, they’ll learn their lesson and do their work. Then they’ll  be ready to try again.

What about you? Have you ever been foolish enough to attempt something you had no business trying? You ever reach for something above your pay grade? Did you manage to scrape a win out of a huge loss? Sometimes our most painful moments build character and confidence, and help us succeed down the road.

So take a moment to search your memory for a moral victory. Sometime when you failed miserably in the moment, but won something bigger in the long run. Pull up that memory whenever you’re struggling so failure won’t stop you from trying again.

Then tell us all about it in the Comment box below…




6 thoughts on “Why A Moral Victory Can Be Better Than A Win”

  1. Great piece. Everyone oversteps once in a while. Thanks for a memorable piece to help us temper drive before it becomes arrogance, and know that sometimes it all works out in the end.

  2. I loved this post, Aram! You’re a real model in being confident and fearless in situations where the outcome is very uncertain.
    The only thing I’d add is the more I’m able to give myself support / validation independent of an external source the more free / powerful I become.
    IMJ that business card was nice but totally unnecessary for you to acknowledge how courageous and ballsy you were on that slope! 🙂

    1. To be honest David, that card helped me reframe everything about that day. I felt foolish, shamed and beaten up to that point. The card was the shining proof I needed for the win.

      Sounds like you’re becoming self-validating – a big step in being able to take more risks and becoming more powerful. Whoohoo!

  3. Great work Aram, you are the best! just showing up is a win, the most important win that day was your inner win, way more important,it always an inside job, you may have lost the battle but I say you won the war and lived to fight another day Great work! Blessings Roger

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