They say the history of every person who has achieved greatness in life, be it in sports, business, academe, research or any other field is sprinkled with failure.
Those who clamber all the way to the top in their chosen fields, all who raise the bars to new heights, all experienced moments in life when they were knocked to the ground and lay broken and exhausted on the field of existence only to drag themselves back up by the bootstraps and start all over again.
The true test of fortitude is not measured by the heights we reach or the records we set but is, instead, established by our willingness and determination to take a deep breath and begin the race one more time and one more time and even one more time until we cross the finishing line, prize in hand and arms raised in victory.
We all know the only assured way of never failing is through never starting and the absolutely guaranteed way of running the risk of failing again is by beginning again.
I was reminded of this early this morning, the second anniversary of the sudden and unexpected death of my dear friend Richard.
Richard was a raconteur who had a restlessness deep inside that never allowed him to settle for the status quo while at the same time living at a level of inner peace and harmony I envied greatly.
Richard’s early life was filled with one struggle after the next, many self-imposed.
His late teens and early 20s were a drug filled haze followed by several years of alcohol-induced blurs.
When he and I first met we were both in our early 40’s and his drug and alcohol days were long past. I was struggling with a painful and daunting respiratory disease and Richard was bouncing from lofty heights in one venture to bottomless pits in the next.
A serial entrepreneur with incurable optimism and an energy level to be envied Richard, always faced life with an attitude that screamed, “I may well lose a few battles, but I will win every war.”
Life was both cruel and unrelenting in the curves it threw Richard. From business partners clearing out bank accounts and taking off for parts unknown to health challenges that would have felled a horse, Richard’s life was never easy and yet his smile would never fade, his resolve never weaken and his energy never diminish.
Along the way his “never give in” attitude and his determination to treat each failure as a lesson and each setback as a teacher gave him enormous victories allowing him to touch pinnacles of success only dreamed of by most others.
Through the long five years of my health battle Richard was frequently the rock I leaned on and drew energy from during those many moments when I wanted to give up.
At those times when my strength was gone, Richard lent me his and, although we were always separated by distance and seldom in the same room at the same time, he would never allow me to even entertain the thought of giving up and would gently nudge me to keep staring at the light which he always assured me was at the end of the tunnel.
Males of my generation never say out loud the words “I love you” to one another for reasons too many to address in this post, but this morning as I was thinking of Richard, the many lessons he taught me, his indomitable spirit and never fading smile I realized how much I miss him and heard myself say out loud those three words I have never said to another man.
And while I knew he was not sitting in front of me to hear those words, I know he is up there somewhere saying those same words back to me.
In hindsight, as I think of the many lessons I learned from Richard, never giving up and never mistaking defeat for surrender was one of the two really powerful ones.
The other is to take the time and tell those we love and care about how important they are in our lives and to make sure we do that while they are still here sitting in front of us.
Richard, I sure miss you.
Till we read again.