JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA –
In the last few weeks, most high school wrestling seasons concluded with an individual state wrestling tournament to determine the best wrestler in each weight class and school classification.
In my hometown of Cary, North Carolina, a young man named Kobe Early, a wrestler in the 106 pound class, had one of the best seasons a Cary High School freshman ever had. He was undefeated going into the state finals …he lost that match. He finished the season second in the 106 pound class for the 4A school classification. His overall record was 46-1.
Only one person ends the season on a high note. Everyone else is left with some level of disappointment; contemplating why they lost and how they could have done better.
Like other sports, wrestling teaches life lessons--learn to work as a team, but be responsible for your own performance; your performance depends on your preparation, and more preparation is generally better; drive and determination make up for many flaws; complaining rarely, if ever, gets you anywhere; and finally, be willing to sacrifice to make the team better.
These lessons translate to any line of work including, most certainly, our vocation as Airmen. Do you see the core values in these lessons? Resiliency? The challenge in wrestling, as in life, is getting up after defeat or setbacks. In one of my most memorable matches, I was quickly down 5-0 to a strong opponent after the first period. I was able to reset mentally, pinning my opponent in the second period to win the match.
To quote Winston Churchill, "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never." This from a man who, for nearly a year and a half, single-handedly stood down Nazi aggression by sheer force of will. For a decade prior to the spring of 1940, Churchill had been the laughingstock of English politics with his glory days a distant memory. Then, after the Nazis seized control of continental Europe, he was swept into power by a country needing him as their last “Lion.”
So what to take away from these lessons? When we talk about resiliency, we often make it sound easy. It's not. It takes grit to get up off the mat when you're in a huge hole against a difficult opponent. In life that opponent may be an illness, mental or physical, an addiction, a bad relationship, or even overcoming past poor choices. Real life, more often than not, is difficult. However, we've all been through challenging times. The determination and drive developed through the previous challenges will help propel you through current challenges. Additionally, all of us have a community of people who believe in us and care about us. Reach out to those people and seek out their advice and counsel.
Often, the difference between success and failure is having the courage to get up one last time, when you think all is lost and everything hopeless.
"Never give in. Never, never, never, never."