“Hey, if I am going to lose, let me lose doing something.” – sam seaborne on west wing

I was typing something about my global generation education initiative and I had West Wing on in the background and I heard the Rob Lowe character say this line.

It made me pause.

The dilemma with pursuing a legacy idea is although it has a high appeal for success (because it means ‘something’) it is difficult, time consuming, has low chance of success (ever being implemented) and it doesn’t pay bills.

And it makes you think about the whole idea of pursuing and reaching a “legacylike” idea.

I imagine any life decision, seeking a new job/pursuing a legacy idea/pursuing a new business idea/whatever, combined with the fact you have to sustain and maintain everyday life responsibilities at exactly the same time is a version of this dilemma.

I would like to claim this chart but some guys at 50topmodels.wordpress.com created it.

So. Some guy named John William Atkinson wrote Motivational Determinants of risk-taking Behavior in Psychological Review in 1957. He suggested that if one can choose the grade of complexity (difficulty) of a task individually and independently most of the decisions are taken in a mid-complexity-level. Too easy tasks or too difficult tasks can neither provoke a strong feeling of satisfaction nor a strong disappointment. Or the other way round. Highly motivated people often choose a realistic complexity of tasks whereas low motivated people choose tasks that are finally to easy or too difficult for them.

Then Atkinson continued his studies with something else which I am hoping would make me feel better about my legacy idea but I couldn’t find anything else he wrote that I could understand.

But. Here is where I think I would sit good ole JW Atkinson down and have a debate.

If I set aside the fact bills have to be paid at some point I would say he doesn’t give ‘appeal of success’ enough emphasis. Especially if the appeal of success is tied to “doing something” or maybe better said ‘doing something that may truly matter.’

As Sam Seaborne says “if I am gonna lose let me lose doing something.”

And, while I am talking about the legacy I personally want to leave behind, I would imagine this thought bleeds into many of our lives.

I don’t think I am different than most people.

We all want to ‘do something.’

With me it’s this.

For some parents it is going to be their children.

For other parents it is a business or an idea that they want to leave behind for their children.

For others it may be number of kids they taught who went on to be happy & healthy people.

For some it may be that they have made something that will live on.

But deep in our heart of hearts we want to know that we have done something that matters.

In a ‘big’ thought kind of way somewhere in all of us we would like to leave the world a better place than the way we found it (and everyone can define the extent of ‘better place’ in their own minds).

For example. My friend Scott pointed out in a comment to my immortality post (and a really good point) that it can often simply be making a difference in someone’s life. He is right. And if that is as good as it gets, well, that ain’t bad.

But sometimes the desire to ‘do something’ is bigger than individuals or individual moments.

In my case I am taking ‘world’ literally and not figuratively.

And I guess that Atkinson is suggesting that the size of the ‘do something’ legacy task can often lead to a complexity that increasingly makes it difficult to be successful.


At some point I am going to have to decide whether I am going to compromise (assuming I cannot find someone to implement this idea within a reasonable time frame).

And here is where I and the rest of the world meet regardless of what we are talking about.

Do I seek something to pay the bills but may not make the legacy impact I truly seek to do?

I believe if you are an adult reading this we have all faced this at some point.

(and if you are a 20something or teen reading this please rewind and don’t read this post because you should not have to learn about compromising yet)

Day to day responsibilities (not just bills but true responsibility to others who count on you) is a real life factor in whatever you decide to do or not do. It’s not like you have a blank sheet and put on it “do something that matters.”

The sheet isn’t blank.

Before you put that down you have cars, mortgages, children, mates/partners, work obligations, general shit that needs to get done.

How does it all happen?

Well. In the kindest sense you learn to balance or juggle. In its harshest sense you compromise.

And I fear compromising has left far too many people numb to life … or maybe just numb to their dreams. Or maybe more specifically numb to ‘doing something.’

Maybe I fear that numbness if I end up compromising. I don’t know.

I, as everyone else, certainly want to be happy. Live. And love. And be loved. Travel. See things. Meet people. Meet more people. And learn.


Doing something.


Doing something.

Something that can leave the world a better place.

Atkinson is/was probably a shitload smarter than I but I gotta tell ya … if you even have a glimmer of hope of getting to do something big … something really big … something that matters in a big way … something that someone would know was a legacy idea … well … I don’t know.

If am going to lose, I want to know I lost doing something.

Written by Bruce