Thoughts on Complaining

I wrote this article about 10+ years ago for It’s still accurate to this day and I wanted to share it with you once again.

My uncle once told me: if something happens to you over and over again, the problem comes from you and there’s no one or nothing else to blame.

I have written countless articles about luck and my definition of it. Basically, I don’t believe luck is something that actually exists. It’s a subjective perception of random factors going for or against you. There’s no entity above you that’s changing the order of the cards in your deck depending on the situation of the board, or making you draw six lands in a row. It’s just that a totally random succession of events (shuffling) led you to draw that many lands. In general, people would consider someone lucky who benefits from something unlikely to happen in life, like winning the lottery for example.

If being “lucky” Is a thing, then whoever is reading this should feel that way.You were born a human in the late 20th century.

Man. To this day that is still the most messed up thing that keeps me up at night when I think about it. I was born a human. Of all the species on earth, all the living things, I was born a human. I’m not a religious person; I don’t really believe my soul was put into a human body because I did something good in a previous life (it would explain a lot, but let’s not go there). So seriously, what are the odds? I could have been born a dog, a fish, a fly, or an oyster. How does that work? I don’t know. Maybe I would have been happy as an oyster, but I think being a human rocks. And if there’s an equal chance of being born a human as being born anything else, then I’m a freakin’ lucky soul.

As bad as the world economy can be, there’s a load of upsides being born in the end of the 1900’s. You are one click away from sending a message to anyone you know, on the planet. Anyone from anywhere can reach you on your cell phone, almost for free. You can go about anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours. That’s for the most visible things. Then you have everything that you take for granted but that wasn’t that obvious not too long ago, like medical technology thatwould keep you from dying from a random infection. It’s really not that long ago that people were dying from something as terrible as -insert random disease that can now be cured within a week-. To kill you now, you need to be shot, involved in an accident, or get cancer (or some other bad disease that will probably be curable in a few decades if not sooner).

Having access to technology is not a given when you’re not born in a “rich” country. Most people on earth do not have access to the internet, to medical health care (although you might not have it super easy depending on where you’re from), or even the more basic things like a house, or food, or water.…and you play Magic

So you’re a human, who has access to the internet (you wouldn’t be reading this otherwise), you live in the most awesome period of humankind so far, and you have money and time to spare to play games. In addition, you play the most awesome card game ever created.

It doesn’t mean you should feel bad about what you are or what you have. It’s the way it is and you should embrace it to the fullest. You would be a fool not to. Some are born less fortunate than you. You could be one of these kids starving and fleeing civil wars in Africa. It does sound a little cheesy, and like something your mom would say when you’re not eating your food. But in a way, she’s right: you’re lucky to actually have food. You don’t have to eat it all, or feel bad because others don’t, but just be aware that you’re one of the few living things on earth who can have food without too much effort or risking your life everyday to have some.

So you play Magic (it already sounds a little less important all of a sudden) and you’re involved in the finals of a PTQ. Your opponent draws his one outer to win and knock you out of the tournament. You curse him, and complain about how lucky he got, that it’s the worst, that you hate your life, etc. If you don’t recognize yourself here, it’s definitely someone close that you know.

If you’re thinking that way that means you’re totally unaware of everything I mentioned above. How can you be unlucky when something as meaningless for about 99.99% of the world population would not care in the slightest? Of course, It would have been nice to qualify for the PT, and your life might have taken a big turn. But you haven’t, and maybe you didn’t play the game as well as you thought you did and let your opponent draw his one outer –that’s the definition of playing well: leaving your opponent with the fewest outs as possible.

So you lose the finals of the PTQ. Of course you’re “allowed” to feel bad. After all, you have been dreaming to qualify for a long time, and you were so close… But there are going to be other chances. So cheer up, get back to practice and win the next one. If you’re good enough, you’ll make it eventually.

Complaining is the best way to not get things done or learn any lesson. It’s blaming others or the universe for something bad happening to you. It could be good sometimes, to let it all out, to make all the frustration go away. It’s okay as long as it’s not a way of life, and used very occasionally. For it to be acceptable, it needs to be followed by constructive criticism aiming at fixing whatever happened or improving the wellbeing or the conditions of the people who “suffered” the incident.

Because honestly, unless it’s a funny situation where a bunch of crazy things happen, no one cares at all. I once thought of a rule to be applied in Magic tournaments: if you are to tell a bad beat story, you have to give food to your audience. Your audience is nice enough to listen to your rant, but you’re just wasting their time (because remember rule number one of Magic tournaments: no one cares about bad beat stories). If you really need an ear to relieve yourself from the burden of the bad beat, then you should reward your audience with…I don’t know…a cookie? It doesn’t mean losing is “okay.” When I play Magic, I like to win; it’s one of my strongest motivations. What drives me even more is that I hate losing. You actually recognize champions by the bitterness they feel when they lose, not by the way they feel when they win. Hating losing and missing out on better things is not a reason to complain.

That doesn’t only go for Magic. It goes for about everything in life. The most noticeable is waiting. People like to complain when they’re waiting. The most ridiculous complaints that I see on Twitter are from people/players having delayed flights. What you read is basically that they think the world owed them a flight on schedule. Do they have any idea what the logistics are behind scheduling a flight and have it take off on time? Of all the small problems/inconvenience that could happen to delay them? It’s a mess, and it’s not because they spent a couple hundred bucks that all this is easily fixed.

It’s not about not caring about anything. Bad things are happening to you and are going to happen to you but everything is relative. So you’re spending a couple of hours extra in an airport; what’s the big deal? Are you really so self-centered that you are not aware of what’s going on in the world or even there, at the airport, to not understand it’s not about you? That you’re not entitled to everything going your way? Or that people don’t owe you anything? Well, the company kind of owes you to bring you to your destination, and unless they’re very unprofessional, they are trying their best to get you where you need to be on time. If you knew they were bad and always had problems, then it’s partially even your fault for choosing to fly with them.

Same goes for a lot of things. It’s too cold? Why didn’t you put on warmer clothes… Food is not good? Then eat something else…

The whole point of being aware of what the world is about – what the odds are of you being in the situation you’re in, a human being in the 21st century playing Magic – is to make sure you don’t waste your time and energy doing something extremely counterproductive, that makes you feel miserable and drags you down without any real upside. Something is not going your way? Then work to change it. You’re stuck in an airport for a couple of hours? Take a book, or get something done, instead of tweeting that your life’s the worst. Seriously…the worst? Being caught in a grease fire, having your family murdered by a serial killer, or turning into an oyster and being eaten by a crab would be the worst (I don’t think crabs eat oysters, but you get my point).

Once you’re aware that you should be happy with what you already have (religious people would say “grateful”), you will stop complaining about relatively meaningless things and learn from them. Overall, you will become a better Magic player and, more importantly, a better person.