One of my favorite books of all time is Hagakure, a martial manual from the 18th century written by a samurai named Yamamoto. It has a lot of great proverbs for combat but also for life in general, and it contains one of my very favorite anecdotes.
Here it is -- and while I may be embellishing some of the details, I promise that my interpretation of the story is pretty faithful to the original:
The young samurai students ask their teacher (Yamamoto) "What is the greatest thing that can be said about a warrior? We think it's simply that he never lost in battle. Is that right?"
Yamamoto says, "No, every great warrior has lost battles."
The students are a bit flummoxed by this but press on, asking, "Well, is it that his sword was never broken?" But Yamamoto replies, "Every great warrior had his sword broken at some point or another. In fact, I'm always a bit suspicious of a samurai who claims he's never broken his sword."
Now the young guys try a third time, and ask, "Okay, we've got it -- is it that he was never knocked down off his horse? That's gotta be it." But Yamamoto shakes his head and says, "Nope. Every great warrior is knocked down a bunch of times."
Truly perplexed, the students demand of their teacher: "Then what is it? No offense, but these great warriors don't sound so great. They're always losing battles, breaking their swords, and getting knocked down off their horses. So what is the greatest thing that can be said about a warrior?"
Yamamoto smiles in his Zen way and replies, "The greatest thing that can be said about a warrior is that he was knocked down seven times, but got up eight times."
BOOM! Now that's a philosophy I can get behind. And to this day in the martial tradition of Japan, it's a revered proverb: "Seven times down, eight times up," as summarized in the four-character Kanji drawing above.
I think it's as good a motto as any, so now it makes its world debut as a blog title. (I checked.)