Why Take a Chance?

the cover of the book 'three men in a boat'

There is a good chance you have come across either of the following cliches : 

  • No gain without pain
  • Success comes with sacrifice

I think the idea behind these thoughts being so commonplace is that we all tend to see at least some value in them. After all, who wouldn’t describe practicing WWE moves at home on your younger/older sibling as a quality use of their time? 

You have been trained for the off chance that walking down a dark street in some city, if someone pounces at you, you have just the right move to ram their head against that broken leg of that dilapidated cot. 

Granted that the scale is heavily tilted towards the side of pains, what with years of childhood training to perfect the craft and at least a couple of scars to show for it, the day you get to use them – Boy o Boy! What a feeling of pride!

Often the pain may not even be physical but psychological, like wanting to read a Harry Potter book (the fifth one) with your midterm math exams looming over your head. The allure of the secret defense order in this wizarding world is just too much to bear. 

You see yourself robotically reaching out to that thick book tucked (hidden) cozily in your bedside drawer when you had your trig books lying shamelessly on your bed, crying out for a little bit of attention. 

You read Sirius Black’s family history and half heartedly and painfully stow the book away to work out the math of distance between buildings and an onlooker eyeing them with a weird angle. It hurts very much, but you do it regardless because later, when you are all grown up, you will have a job that will pay for all the books you would have earned the right to forever banish trig or calculus books from your personal space.

You make calculated decisions based on Pains (Cost) vs Gains (Benefit) analysis. You make them feel good about yourself. 

Yes, there are occasions when you doubt your choices based on this logic, but then you quickly skim through your introductory Psychology textbook about the benefits of delayed gratification.

What better way to test a kid’s patience than having them drool over marshmallows and pretzel sticks!

Yes, there definitely is some merit to the premise and the conclusion of these studies. That’s what you console yourself with. 

Those people experimenting at Stanford definitely know what they are doing. If they are smart enough to say it’s true, who are you, a mere mortal, to argue?

All is well in your world until one random day, you lay your eyes on this harmless-looking book titled “Three men in a boat,” written by a guy who happens to have the same first and last name. You find it curious. In all your naive glory, you flip over the first page of the book…

And your life is never the same again. In this book, frequently mistaken to be only humorous, you find life lessons that impart to you the wisdom of the sages, the kind that lets you live your life unapologetically, idiotically and (mostly)in (idyllic)peace. There may or may not be gains to be had, but a land without pain seems worth getting citizenship of.

And you are a transformed person!

You don’t set the alarm to wake up in the mornings anymore. You have donated all your trigs and calculus books. You don’t have to hide your Harry Potters in your bedside drawer. You give in to your laziness and stop toasting your bread – what difference does it make anyway? 

You have decided that life from now on is going to be painless. And then, as if by a stroke of luck (or a signal from the force field, if you will), you find this gem:

Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance? – Edgar Bergen


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