When You Don’t Think You’re Allowed to Win, You Find a Way to Lose

If I had a dollar for everyone I talk to that has a completed university degree… except for one or two credits of work… I’d have an extra four dollars this week.

What’s maddening to the outside observer is that the missing credit is often not even a hard course, it’s something like Finding The Library 101, or Embarrassed to Be White 203. You literally just have to show up with a pulse to get a B+ and then you have your degree.

Then the obvious question is “Why didn’t you finish?” “Why don’t you just go back and finish it now?”

Then they give the speech their White House Press Secretary Hamster has prepared for exactly those questions. You know, the one that spins a thick whitewash over everything, implying that circumstances beyond their immediate control has resulted in a sub-optimal outcome, only when considered from a stereotypical measurement of immediate success. That the entire exercise was in fact extremely valuable and will unquestionably provide an expanded viewpoint upon which to better engage in an upward career momentum and thus cannot be framed as a failure when the objectives have in fact been met. Which is not to preclude the possibility of revisiting the location of elevated instruction at some later chronological point in the narrative, but for now more important tasks must take precedence.

Yeah right.

Let me tell you what really happened.

You got that close to the end of the degree and then suddenly everything just turned into this Alice in Blunderland experience where suddenly all your mental ability turned into mush, you lost motivation, something distracting happened and you focused on that, then suddenly something was due and you just hit this wall of critical personal failure that you can neither explain or wish to dare to happen again. It’s like one of those Epic Fail videos where someone is winning a race by a country mile and then they trip and slam into the ground like a fat guy having a stroke.

Okay, fast forward to now…

You’ve worked your ass off to be successful. Hours of work every week. Money down, risk up.

Everything is in place for success.


More like 99% of success is in place.

You just have to do the billing.

Doesn’t take all that long really…

One second.

Dammit the moderately important thing just broke down and it’s really important you have to fix it. Right now.

Then your mom calls.

Dammit mom, why call now? I really have to do the billing.

Then the grass on the lawn looks really a bit long and it really should be mowed.


Then eventually you’ll end up somehow failing. I know how familiar this feels to you.

The core of the problem is that you’re experiencing a low energy state and lack feeling entitled to succeed, to win, or to simply have things go right. So you sabotage yourself to align your level of success, love and happiness to the same level of your current energy set. This is why you can’t have nice things.

Knowing that, you do two things…

(1) DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHY YOU HAVE THIS MENTAL BLOCKAGE. I really can’t emphasize that enough. You’re not going to have some great moment of understanding and insight and then suddenly have the clouds part on your life and all be suddenly wonderful. In fact, the more you try and think about it this way, the less progress you’ll make on fixing the problem.

(2) JUST GO COMPLETE THE TASK YOUR STRUGGLING TO COMPLETE. Seriously, just force yourself to sit down and grind out that last credit for the degree, just grind out the billing, just go and ask her out. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Just go do it, no matter how task avoidant you feel.

Then as you complete the task and gain that extra bit of success, happiness and positive energy, it makes you feel more entitled to have achieved success. Having finished those major tasks you’ve left undone will change the way you feel about yourself. You’ll stand taller, feel stronger and most importantly be at peace with yourself.

So what’s your blockage to success? What’s your unfinished task?


  1. Maybe…..or perhaps you came to the realization that that degree you are a course or two away
    from won’t make one damn bit of difference in your career, your income or your life so you stop
    wasting time and energy and move on. Working hard is good…..working smart is better. Lots of
    degrees in modern America are a total waste of time, money and effort.

  2. Holy smoke. You are describing me to a ‘t’.

    In my 40s, I literally have 2 credits remaining to complete my degree (the good news is, I’m taking time away from my work to complete them in Winter 2014). And each month I procrastinate well into three weeks before writing up bills and expenses for my work, which typically takes about 30 minutes of work.

    Now let’s see if you can help me sex life.

  3. Or, you just need to take a half hour to write that blog post you’ve really wanted to speak to the readership with, but you start reading other blogs, jotting down different ideas, etc, and never get the post written because you spent the time on extraneous stuff.

    This is one thing I REALLY liked about your new book – you had a point that said if you had some little thing to do you had been putting off, just fucking do it because you’re spending more time and energy avoiding it than finishing it. I get that way when it comes to checking my credit report…I fear the shame of finding out I’d made bad financial decisions, so I make the ultimate bad financial decision of not learning how I’m actually doing.

  4. The billing. Yup. I know a man whose business (and eventually, his entire life) tanked thanks to six-figure amounts of unpaid invoices–which consistently went out late, if at all.

    There are people who are smart, and then there are people who work hard and finish things. The rare bird is that person who is smart and has follow-through.

  5. Playtripper says:

    I fall into the same category. 2 credits short of my degree.
    I had a million of excuses at the time.
    For me, I think a lot of it was related to what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “a sense of entitlement” that a lot of upper/middle class parents instill in their children.
    I would’ve been the first in my family to graduate college with a professional degree. I guess it just never felt right to me.

  6. This ia all very true. The more you let things go, the faster you swirl around the bowl. You have to at some point throw yourself a lifeline and just get shit done, even when you feel like shit. Then you feel less like shit, and if you can keep your momentum up, you start to feel like a champ.

    The little things matter. Even if they appear inconsequential, they matter in your head. For example, maybe you’ve been putting off cleaning up the yard and flower beds and putting down the mulch. Does it matter in the course of human history if you have weeds in your garden or your mulch looks like crap? Nope. Will you feel a bit better and have a little more puff in your chest after you get all that stuff squared away? Yep. And then, you can move on to something bigger and more consequential.

    Rome wasn’t built in a day they say, but it sure wasn’t built by dicking off every chance they got and avoiding all of life’s little details. If you’ve only got a little energy, I say do whatever little thing you can to cross something off your list, or a lot of little somethings. Your energy will seem to return without all that stuff eating at the back of your mind.

    The Aristocrats!

  7. “You’re”

  8. I can sympathize with Dan’s point. Technically, I’m a college dropout. I say “technically” because I earned a BS and MS on my way to punching out of a Ph.D. program in Aerospace Engineering after completing the first draft of my dissertation. At first, I thought it was writer’s block. But after a few years of a full-time job, a decent paycheck, and a social life, I realized two things: (1) I was sick to death of my topic, and (2) I was much happier working on something people would actually USE. I was no longer interested in the ivory tower.

    When your goals change, do not be afraid to admit it.

  9. Wow. This is brutal because it’s me. What do you suggest to connect the dots between recognizing the problem and executing? The point about not obsessing about the problem is an excellent one. It’s getting myself to action that’s my problem.

    Very bloody insightful.

  10. Athol, why do you keep writing these posts about me? Come on, can you not point the bright light of personal accountability on someone else, just for a minute?

  11. This was so almost me. One class away from an Engineering degree, just that damn Chemistry2 class to go. I hate Chem. I procrastinated, but signed up at the last minute. Got in aaa d hated it. Sucked it up got a D, but as I explained to my councilor when he asked “why aren’t you trying harder? You could be on the Deans list with your GPA?” I asked if the D gave me the credit to graduate? He paused, said yes. I said that’s all I care about. Thanks for the concern.

  12. great post. so true.

    badger linked to it.

  13. only change i would make:

    When You Don’t Think You Deserve to Win, You Find a Way to Lose

  14. TheatreMommy says:

    LOL. Well, my divorce kinda happened, and I struggled on in mine until I couldn’t do the money side. But I get the point about finishing. Unfinished business is so … draining. So…. red.

  15. Don’t wait for an epiphany. Don’t dig for an epiphany. Don’t think an epiphany will help.
    Just do it.
    OMG, that WAS the epiphany.

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