Lousy Teacher


“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates

Success seems to breed arrogance in many cases. I can’t say I’m what Bill Gates would consider smart, but I have been seduced by success. It taught me to consider and prepare for failure. There’s a fine line between fear and preparation. Fear can be paralyzing, resulting in nothing ventured.

FEAR – “I’m not going to ask her out because she’s probably going to say no, and tell all her friends I’m creepy.”

ARROGANCE – “She’s going home with me tonight. I’ll not accept no as an answer.”

PREPARATION – “I’m going to carry two shots of tequila as I approach her. I will ask her out. If she says no, I’ll drink both shots, and move on.”

Once a man lands a fine woman, his confidence grows. Also, women who see him with the fine woman assume he’s hiding something wonderful, so they express interest. Often, this creates a beast.

FEAR – “My woman looks great, but she’s a pain-in-the-ass. Still, better to have a bad woman than no woman.”

ARROGANCE – “This is a gateway woman. I’ll wear her as long as she suits me, and accumulate others along the way.”

PREPARATION – “I’m dumping her, and looking for a complete woman who I could love inside and out. In the meantime, I’ll work on myself.”

This applies to investments as well. We always hear from our friends who bought the ideal stock at the right time, won money at the casino, and whose real estate value is skyrocketing while their rates slide. I don’t know which I hate hearing more: People bragging about good fortune or whining about failure. Unless you’re the bookie, bank, or broker, you win some; you lose some. All your friends know this.

FEAR – “I’m going to rent, buy guns, sell all of my stock, and begin burying cash in my backyard.”

ARROGANCE – “I’m a genius. I bought Facebook stock at twenty-eight. It’s already up ten percent. It will be worth one-hundred times that next year, at which point I’ll sell it, and buy a yacht.”

PREPARATION – “I’m going to hang on to this home as long as I can, so I can write off the interest. If values keep going down, I’ll sell it, take my lumps, and find a rich old woman with a bad cough to marry.”

Every athlete is vulnerable. Nobody wins or loses every time. The best baseball players fail two out of three times. Basketball stars miss more than half their shots. Even the invincible Serena Williams had her firm ass handed to her when she thought she couldn’t lose. This resulted in tennis racket smashing, which was in itself entertaining, but not what most would consider good sportsmanship. Instead of throwing a tantrum, she should have shrugged, smiled, and congratulated the up-and-comer. Alas, Serena was seduced into thinking she could not be beaten, although she had similarly beaten her seniors more than a decade ago. She was not prepared to lose.

I lose and do it often. I’d rather be 80 wins, 80 losses than 20 wins, two losses. Just ask the women I’ve dated in the past ten years. I’m practically oh-fer, but I’m still swinging, even at the ones out of my reach. The key is, as in business, try often, and if you must fail, fail quickly, and try again.

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About the author

Author of humorous essays about relationships and lifestyles.