Each morning I drive to the Panera Bread near my apartment and work on my blog before going into work.
Each morning the same group of employees are having a predictable style of conversation. They’re complaining about some annoying customer, about the manager making unreasonable requests, how the delivery drivers are too slow, or about their bogus work schedules. When one employee starts to complain, the others promptly join in. It almost feels like a competition to see who can craft the most creative complaint.
The most interesting part to me is that this complaining competition doesn’t take place on some odd days, but rather it’s a an everyday occurrence. It’s habitual.
I have noticed this behavior of habitual complaining in many different settings.
In graduate school there was a guy in my class who constantly told the professor that the homework was too challenging, too unclear, or too difficult to solve. He would point this out to the professor weekly, not every so often. He was routinely looking for the professor to rescue him from his own inability to do the homework.
There’s a guy I work with in his late 20’s who frequently complains about the fact that our company will likely not pay out a bonus this year. Instead of focusing on increasing his own potential for a raise, he’s looking for the company to provide him with a bonus.
There’s a guy who works at my local gym who consistently makes comments like “I don’t know how people come in here everyday, I don’t have the motivation for that”, or “I would work out later, but the game is on”, and a myriad of other excuses as to why he himself isn’t working out.
Whether it’s at school, work, the gym, or elsewhere, I’m amazed at how common it is for people to complain about their circumstances, not just occasionally, but on a regular basis.
It’s incredible to see how complaining can become a habit for people. So many people are training their brain to complain as soon as obstacles pop up in life. This habit prevents most people from obtaining freedom in any area of life.
Progress & Complaining Cannot Coexist
Something I’m learning as I grow older is: life can often be considerably harder than you anticipated. That college course might be more challenging than you expected. Staying in shape might be more of a struggle than you thought. Starting a side business might be more time-consuming than you had planned on.
When faced with overwhelming obstacles, most people default to complaining because it feels really good to complain. To place blame on other people, on the system, on the government, on “the man” feels great in the moment. It feels good to declare that the world is the source of the problem, not you.
This is a cop out. Not only does complaining prevent you from taking action, but it halts personal progress dead in it’s tracks. Progress and complaining cannot coexist. If you choose to complain, you choose to stop moving forward. In order to start moving, you must stop complaining.
Face Reality. Then Crush it.
There’s only one formula to overcoming obstacles: doing the uncomfortable work.
Credit card debt sucks. But you know what won’t make it go away? Complaining about it. Complaining about how you got “tricked” into buying stuff or how you don’t earn enough money to pay it off gets you nowhere. Take a day off from watching 3 hours of Netflix and go check out a book from the library on how to get your debt under control.
Working at a job you hate stucks. But complaining about it is guaranteed to keep you stuck at that job. Start developing new skills to transition jobs. Start saving money to gain financial confidence to switch to a new job. Start taking online courses, packing your lunch, working on the weekends, doing whatever uncomfortable work is necessary to gain more freedom.
If you’re actively looking for things to complain about and reasons for why saving money, getting in shape, and transforming your life is too difficult, you will find them. The reasons abound. But if you want to make a real change, start sprinting towards a new life, radically changing your current situation, it requires you to kill your ego and own up to your actions.
This will sting. It requires you to admit that you are the reason you’re not where you want to be, why you don’t make as much money as you want, why you don’t have the life you want.
Complaining feels so good, but it doesn’t change anything. Taking action is hard, but it changes everything.
Put your head down and do the necessary work. Most people won’t. Most people will
remain complacent, blaming the world for their inadequacy. And you know what? Perhaps there are inefficiencies in your workplace. Perhaps you do deserve to be paid more. Perhaps the customers you deal with everyday truly are a pain.
But the only way to overcome the obstacles you face are to become stronger than them, not to wish for them to go away or wish to be rescued by outside forces. This means when the problems of the world are raining down on you, instead of waiting for someone to come save you with an umbrella you’re actively building yourself a raincoat.
It’s awfully nice when someone comes to bail you out. But it’s infinitely better
when you have the means to save yourself.
Most people want a life of freedom, but most people would rather sit and complain about why it’s too difficult to obtain. True change requires humility. It requires patience. You won’t change your situation overnight. You probably won’t change it within the next 3 months either. But put your head down, eliminate habitual complaining, and do the work required to get what you want. In time, your situation will begin to change and freedom will inch closer and closer.
In order to transform your life, kill your habit of complaining. Don’t wait for the world to become easier to live in. Become strong enough to overcome the obstacles of the world.
Do you want freedom? Kill complaining. Develop strength.
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9 Replies to “Kill Complaining. Develop Strength.”
In many ways I think complaining is a self-fulfilling prophecy. There’s just something about surrounding yourself with constant negativity. I did this at a job once; sure, it felt great to vent, but it cast a dark cloud over the entire work day.
Agreed – the things we complain about only become worse. The more we complain, the bigger our obstacles become and the less progress we make.
Au contraire, it is possible to take complaining to the next level and still to accomplish big things. I hit my career goals, my financial goals, my family goals, tens of thousands of endurance miles ran, many marathons, brutal unrated ski runs, 104 degree F tennis matches all accompanied by the sweet sound of me whining about how hard it all was. I know complaining is a life suck for many that defeats progress but it can be a way of entertaining yourself while you are doing the crappy hard stuff that comes with winning. Of course my wife wants to kill me most of the time.
Interesting view of complaining, Steve. For me, I find that complaining only hinders my progress, it doesn’t “entertain me while doing the crappy hard stuff”, but I’m glad you found a way to use it to your advantage.
There are people close to me that complain a lot. But I can’t break those relationships. Because they’re close I let them know to always look at the positive side of things or work on a solution instead. Or if you can’t control the problem at all, then think or worry about it. Sometimes it’s easier said then done and it’s a habit hard for some people to break. But once it starts fading away the quality of life improves big time 🙂
I know plenty of people around me who complain regularly too, I just make the decision not to join in 🙂 For me, complaining and taking action are at odds with each other. The more I want to complain, the less action I take to work towards my goals. But through eliminating complaining I can focus more of my time and energy on taking action.
Very wise advice, Zach! I’ve noticed the same thing throughout my own career. Admittedly, I have been on that side that complains about their job or situation. But I’ve also always been working on something that I’m passionate about on the side. I don’t understand complaining and doing nothing about it. Most people complain 5 days a week and spend all their money on being entertained for the other 2 days. Frankly, if you’re not going to do anything about it, you have no right to complain and should be grateful. No matter what your situation, you have to take responsibility for your actions and where you are in life. Thanks for sharing!
Graham, what a great rule – “if you’re not going to do anything about it, you have no right to complain”. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for the feedback 🙂