Daily Tao / 306 – Triumph


Crawl to begin.
Triumph to complete.
Renounce to leave.

What is the anatomy of any phase of life? First comes a learning stage full of awkward struggle for mastery. Then comes a phase of testing yourself in competition. Finally, there is gracious retirement from the field, for constant competition is not a lasting way of life.

Competition is always a thorny problem. True, it challenges you to be your very best. Cultivating skill without using it is like learning a foreign language and never leaving your house. If we think of winning in the narrow sense of vanquishing others, we fall into a dangerous egotism. Winning can be thought of as attainment. For example, if you learn to swim, that is winning over your own ignorance and sloth. If you enter into a meet and win, then that is winning not over others, but achieving your personal best. The other competitors are secondary; it is more important that you know where you stand, that you consolidate your position, and that you look for further achievement. That is true triumph.

Triumph in the right amounts is the greatest tonic to the soul. Triumph carried to extremes corrodes the soul. Once you have had your share of triumphs, know when to get out. Once you have gained the top, renounce competition. Then start over. That is the secret of moving from phase to phase in life.