What do you do when you fail at the one thing that you believe you are best at? When you don’t just fail but you are utterly crushed by defeat in a way that rips out your very heart out?
It is the 2nd July 2010 at Soccer City in Johannesburg, the world bears witness to, perhaps, the most memorable match of the whole FIFA World Cup tournament. Uruguay and Ghana are both 1 up. A controversial handball by Luis Suarez gave Ghana a penalty. But not just any penalty. This was the penalty that carried the hopes and dreams of an entire continent. At that moment, Africa WAS a country. By now South Africa had proved, against all odds, that an African country could host such a spectacle, successfully. The Black Stars of Ghana were proving that, even on the pitch, Africans were a formidable force. Asamoah Gyan steps up to take the kick. Probably the entire continent holds its breath. Gyan kicks the ball, it hit the crossbar and broke the hearts of millions.
Spain went on to win the 2010 cup, it was the stuff of dreams. That is until the reigning champions were knock out of the 2014 cup in the most humiliating way possible, after only 2 matches.
I saw a story on the Humans Of New York the other day. This guy plays the cello and says he has been trying to get into a full-time orchestra for 20yrs. “One time I prepared three months for the Los Angeles Philharmonic audition, flew all the way across the country, and they cut me off after twelve seconds.”
Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, once spoke about one of his lowest moments in life. He had grown up wanting to be a football player. He made sure he trained hard in order to get into a team. It never happened. There was nothing wrong with him, he was just not good enough and, no amount of training was going to change that.
We are all raised to be competitive in some way. Be it in school or in sports, even in your social life and your job. The cult of being the best is an almost all-consuming philosophy in most sectors of our lives. Heck, even in relationships people talk about, “baby, you’re the best”.
But now, what do you do when your best is not good enough in a way that you cannot fix? Many of those in the Spanish team will not be in the team that will compete in the next world cup. Their chapter closes with them being humiliating losers and, well, that’s just that. Asamoah Gyan will always be that guy who missed the penalty broke Africa’s heart and, well, nothing will change that.
Athletics, especially the sprints, illustrate this best; someone comes in first and, someone has to come in last. That guy who came in last, running is not his hobby, it’s his life. Many of those who come in last will never be heard from again.
Someone’s ex, the one they are still deeply in love with, is now getting married to someone else.
An internet flooded with feel-good quotes will tell us that you just need to believe, don’t stop, keep at it, but, someone has to lose. So what do you do, when you miss that one shot, before the doors close and the train leaves? Sure, there’ll be others, but they won’t be That One!