Larry Mullins

June 19, 2009

The Will to Fail and going the distance

The Will-to-Fail Syndrome functions to cause us to avoid beginning projects —and if we do start, it causes us to avoid completing projects. It is never a question of winning or losing, so much as going the distance. The old seventies movie Rocky is the story of a washed up boxer who is given a chance to fight for the heavyweight title. The bout was conceived of as a publicity stunt, almost a joke, but Rocky takes it seriously. He goes into intense training. Rocky reaches a peak of conditioning; but on the night before the fight the Will-to-Fail complex strikes. Rocky wanders the streets and comes to the conclusion that he simply cannot win. But there is no escape, he must go on with the bout. Finally, Rocky comes to a resolution that calms the struggle going on inside of him. He returns to his room, and informs his girlfriend that the task of beating the champion is too formidable, he cannot do it. “What are you going to do?” she asked.
Rocky replies that he will “Go the distance.” He explains: “No one has ever gone the distance with the champ before. I can’t win, but I am going the distance.” That night, Rocky is battered, but he goes the distance. In fact, he nearly wins the contest. Whether you approve of boxing or not, this is an excellent allegory that expresses the central dilemma of life itself: few people go the distance. At some point in life, usually in their twenties or thirties, the Will-to-Fail Syndrome takes hold; people unconsciously commence the avoidance process. They delay, then give up their dreams; the fire of desire sputters out. You have seen most of your friends, or will see them, one by one drop away from the bitter struggle of life and begin to go through the motions. Only rarely does a human continue to get up after being knocked down — over and over again — by life. Most of us — eventually — decide to stay down to avoid the pain of falling again. We begin to fake it.But when a final and irrevocable decision is made to get up again, no matter what — to go the distance regardless of how many times we are knocked down — something happens. Things begin to change. Forces come to our aid. We are on the side of life.

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