invest in loss

This is the second of the ideas I’ve borrowed from martial arts: “you must invest in loss”. What does this mean? It means that any rejections and failures should be understood as opportunities to improve. A failure doesn’t mean you’ve failed absolutely, cataclysmically, and for all time, and that you should give up now, it means that you have an identifiable weakness that you can improve upon so that your next attempt is better. In terms of education, this means that, if you have done poorly in a particular assessment, take the opportunity to work out what it is, exactly, that you’ve done wrong. This may mean reading over depressing assessment notes from tutors or academics, but the notes are there to help you improve. It’s difficult to give bad feedback to a student – it genuinely makes me feel bad – but I’d do student a disservice if I gave them marks that they hadn’t earnt. If they were to make repeat mistakes, it’s in their best interest for me to identify them. The worst possible response from a student is to receive their assignment back, get depressed or angry because of a result that’s less than what they wanted or what they expected, and then never read the feedback! I, or whoever, wrote that material to help you improve! It’s not there because I really wanted to make you feel bad.

Investing in loss also means directly placing yourself out of your comfort zone. This is something I’ve had to learn for public speaking. I’m getting better at it because I challenge myself when I do it. For me this means knowing that, to some extent, I’m going to suck at a particular presentation, but I do it in the knowledge that I’ll be better at it over time. I’ve already improved remarkably in the last 12 months, and am far better than I used to be two years ago. Put yourself at risk, accept defeat, but learn from the experience.

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2 thoughts on “invest in loss”

  1. How would you suggest applying these ideas to loss in a material/economic sense? I’m thinking, particularly, the loss of a person. Death to me seems to situate itself in a double bind, of sorts; you can recover ways to deal with future losses of that type, however, the particular loss from which you learn exists in a vacuum. Or am I completely ranting here?

  2. I think that loss that affects us on a more material level can still be approached using this dynamic. The main point that I read from this concept is that there is no event from which you cannot learn something, even if that something is minor or obtuse. I think the idea of seeking out negative situations in order to benefit from them perhaps finds its limit case in the more material ideas you’ve mentioned. While many hermetic or aesthetic religious devotees are heavily invested in discarding all material possessions, speaking to the unrecoverable loss of a specific individual is probably impossible. That said, any contingent occurrence or event is, in itself, a singular and unrecoverable happenstance that cannot be acted upon in the event of its own loss. Perhaps a method of seeing around this would be a process of thought experiments and considerations of the event of the loss of things in the future, although this sounds pretty much like the conditions for producing extreme anxiety and neurosis…

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