One of the most important pieces of literature I’ve read was written by a 13-year-old girl, from an attic in the Netherlands.

Her name was Anne Frank. Perhaps you’ve heard of her.

If you haven’t read it, that’s fine. It’s not exactly Harry Potter. I’ll simply offer you my favorite line, which is one of the best, if not the single best, lines in literature: “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

The context of that sentence is what makes it so powerful. I’ll remind you that diary was written by a teenager, who was living in an attic, whose room was hidden behind a bookcase because she was being hunted by one of the vilest regimes in the history of mankind.

And she had the mindset, the wherewithal, to understand that she was actually one of the more fortunate ones at the time, that what she was able to look at was actually quite beautiful to many thousands of others in concentration camps or on the front lines who didn’t have a warm room in an attic hidden behind a bookcase.

Anne Frank, in spite of never knowing if that bookcase would hold up for one more day, if she’d be shipped off to a concentration camp, if the Nazis would come knocking, remained grateful for what little she had.

The most important thing I’ve learned not just this year, but in life in general, is to attempt to do the same.

I came across that passage in June, at AVP New York. I had just suffered my worst loss in possibly my career up to this point, a first-round knockout to Marshall Brock and Aaren Rice — this isn’t a knock on Brock or Rice, just on the fact that I flew across the country, to my least favorite place in the world, to lose in one round. Making matters worse was the fact that I had been on the heels of my first main draw. I expected to make another. I didn’t make another.

Instead, I pouted. I nursed a beer — several, actually, all Hell or High Watermelon — at the top of the deck and stared a 1,000-yard stare, looking right through the New York skyline, ignoring everyone around me, until Marc Fornaciari elbowed me, shoved a Red Bull vodka in my hands and told me to quit being a Debby Downer.

I didn’t really need the Red Bull vodka, though I’m never going to turn one down, either. What I needed was, in Frank’s words, just to take a look at all the beauty around me and be happy.

Travis MEwhirter-AVP New York

Even New York offers moments of beauty like this one.

We live incredibly blessed lives. All of us. If you’re reading this, that means you have access to a phone or a computer, which means you’re likely in the top one percent of the world in terms of socioeconomic status. You have been blessed enough to receive an education to understand these words.

You’re doing ok.

If you’re a beach volleyball player and reading this, and you can relate to wins and losses and tough ones like mine in New York, that means you’re healthy enough to play beach volleyball, and that you likely have the resources to train and lift regularly, have the money to eat proper food, have a shelter in the most desirable location to live in the world, which also probably means you have a job, and the free time from said job to pursue life as a professional athlete. And if you’ve realized that goal of being a professional athlete, that means you get paid to play a sport on a beach, while others literally pay American dollars and use their precious vacation time to watch you play that sport on a beach.

And if you’re getting paid to play a sport on the beach, you’re also getting paid to travel and see some of the most beautiful places in the country or, if you’re at that level, the world.

You’re doing ok.

We’re all doing ok.

More than ok.

We’re, in my mind, the one percent of the one percent.

All it takes is a smidgen of gratitude to understand that. Sometimes this is easier than others. It’s easy to be grateful when you’ve made a main draw or accomplished whatever it is you sought to accomplish, be it a raise, promotion, win, whatever. It’s not quite as easy when you lose in the first round.

But when you’re able to step back and put things in their proper perspective – as we are able to do at the end of the season, with everything in 20-20 hindsight – you realize that, no matter what happens, there’s beauty in everything, even losses. It reminds me of something Brandon Stanton wrote: “Sometimes you need to allow life to save you from what you want.”

The universe is fickle and tricky like that. Sometimes you won’t see the lessons until days, weeks, months, sometimes years later. But you’ll see them at some point.

All you have to do is look.

I desperately wanted to qualify in New York. When I didn’t, I was able to spend more time with a good friend and fellow journalist, Maria Marino. I was able to show my parents around the site the next day, introducing them to all of my vastly superior friends. I was able to go home to my brothers a day early, where we were able to feast on crabs and good beer and I returned to California both physically and spiritually whole.

Travis Mewhirter-AVP New York

An early exit in New York meant more time with Mama Mewhirter.

I desperately wanted to qualify in Seattle. When I didn’t, I was able to spend more time with my cousins and an aunt I only get to see maybe once a year. I was able to go out and drink beers with old friends and new. I was able to relax, see The Incredibles, and have my faith restored in humanity when we – Ben Vaught, his girlfriend Katie, and I – were able to crash with two people we knew for a combined maybe eight hours.

I desperately wanted to qualify in San Francisco. When I didn’t, I was able to road trip with Tri and Delaney to Bear Valley, a getaway I didn’t realize how much I needed until I returned home and noticed that I hadn’t looked at a screen or email or message in three days.

And I desperately wanted to qualify in Manhattan, and Chicago, and both times, I was able to learn and do things that were blessings indeed.

Gratitude is something I practice, every single morning on the beach. Before we start training, I jog down to the ocean, take some deep breaths, and pray, thanking God for everything you could possibly thank the Big Man for. I’d list these gratitudes, but fortunately that list goes quite long, and the next few thousand words would seem quite boastful, so I’ll keep that between me and Him.

It’s a relatively new habit, but one that has profoundly changed my life for the better. And you don’t need to be spiritual to practice gratitude or be thankful. Just think of all the awesome things in your life and smile. I promise you, they’re not so hard to find. I simply choose to thank a higher power, because I believe in that sort of thing.

I can’t find a better way to begin a day.

Travis Mewhirter-SANDCAST

Losses suck. Crab feasts with the family do not.

This is not to say, however, that bad things don’t happen, and that losing doesn’t suck in the moment. Bad things happen all the time, and I’m a serial moper when I lose. But the emotional low or high after losing or winning is ephemeral. The lessons or moments you can take from each, latching them to your persona and growing from them, can be permanent, seeds for more growth in the future, which ideally will lead to less losing. What this season has taught me, time and time again, is that when things happen, good or bad, you have a choice. Sulk, complain, whine, or dig into it, extract something, learn, grow, improve.

There is a Latin phrase espoused frequently by writer Ryan Holiday, author of the fantastic books Ego is the Enemy and Obstacle is the Way, called “Amor fati.” It means a love of one’s fate, or the ability to see everything that happens, including the bad, as either good or necessary, so you learn and improve from it, therefore making it a building block to a brighter future.

I’ve never seen anyone exercise this more than Tri Bourne has this past year. I first met Tri last September at the Ocean Diner in Hermosa Beach. He was a shell of the muscly athlete I had watched win AVP Huntington in 2015 – gaunt, skinny, clothes hanging off of him.

By now you likely know Tri’s condition, an autoimmune disease that seems to have a mind of its own, flaring up here, acting up there, forever enigmatic and ambiguous. It kept him out of volleyball for nearly two years, upending his entire life as he knew it.

Yet go back and listen to our podcasts. Search for one single complaint from him.

You don’t actually have to go back and listen. I’ll save you the time: I’ve never heard Tri complain. Not once.

He laughed when I told him that one day, said his wife, Gabby, a superwoman if I’ve ever met one, might say otherwise. But the only thing I’ve seen Tri focus on is the potential good that could come from his circumstance. He now had time to look at the game mentally. He began watching film, something he had never done much before. He meditated, easing a restless mind begat from a life of movement, movement, movement.

Travis Mewhirter-Tri Bourne-Delaney Knudsen-SANDCAST

Turns out, a loss in San Francisco didn’t turn out so bad after all.

He learned to be still with himself. And when one treatment failed, and then the next, he looked at it not with dismay, but another treatment checked off the list.

“Alright, now we know that one doesn’t work.”

And then he found one that does. He made his return in Manhattan Beach and finished seventh. In Chicago, he finished fifth. In Hawaii, he beat Phil Dalhausser, the best beach volleyball player to ever live, in my opinion. He made a Sunday. Just the other day, in his first international event back, he won an FIVB gold medal in China.

It would have been easy, forgivable, totally understandable, for Tri to sulk, pout, cry, sit out, change course. Instead, he did what I’m sure a number of people thought impossible: He took one hell of a condition and turned it into an advantage, expanding his skill set both as a player and a human.

He came back stronger, wiser, better.

That’s a complicated, long-winded way of repeating what Anne Frank wrote long before me: “Take a look at all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

Be grateful for everything — wins, losses, setbacks, failures, victories. And get better because of it.

You can find beauty anywhere. In a heart-wrenching loss in New York City. In the death of a loved one. In an autoimmune disease that sidelines you for two years.

In anything.

Find your gratitude. Find your beauty.

Be happy.