Most conversations I have with college students start (and end quickly) with them complaining about doing schoolwork. It’s almost a rite of passage to complain about classwork in college. If you speak enthusiastically about going to class and studying for your exam and learning about new ideas, you are written off as a weirdo.

You will never hear somebody say, “I’m so excited for class today, there’s a quiz and I can’t wait to put my knowledge to the test!”

Instead, you hear things like this:

“Oh just the usual, procrastinating studying for my exam.”

“You know, just taking a nap so I don’t have to study.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that they genuinely believe they have no choice.

I do not enjoy every part of my work, but I never complain about it. Ever.

I chose to do it freely and I own that choice as my own. I do not claim that anybody has the power to force me to do something against my will. I do not grant myself the right to complain by deferring the responsibility of my choice. Manually reviewing edits over a 35,000 word manuscript is difficult and mentally draining but I chose to do it and I stand by that choice.

Believing you have no choice gives you a right to complain. It frames the situation in a way that makes kicking and screaming reasonable. If you believe you are utterly out of control, the responsibility to change your situation disappears. It is not your fault. Complaining becomes an acceptable response.

The Fundamental Difference

The rational man wants to grow while the irrational man wants to sit still.

In the face of an unfavorable situation, the rational man will remove the reason to complain in order to grow.

In the same situation, the irrational man will leverage the reason to complain to justify not growing.

The rational man’s underlying goal is to become better. He strives to creates situations that benefit him. He uses unfavorable situations as an opportunity to make a new choice and create a situation that will help him become better.

The irrational man’s underlying goal is to remain stagnant. He strives to justify his current situation no matter how beneficial or harmful it is for him. He uses unfavorable situations as a reason to prove to himself and others that he has no choice but to remain stagnant.

The rational man who believes he has the power to choose does not complain. If he does not believe his situation is valuable for him, he makes a choice to leave the situation.

The irrational man who believes he has no power to choose complains. If he does not believe his situation is valuable for him, he leverages that belief as a way to gain sympathy and remove resistance in his pursuit of stagnation.