Dilbert - Preferred Pain


Scott Adams embraces ‘pain’ as well with his ‘Preferred Pain Theory’. I’ve excerpted a good chunk of it below because it so chock full of good failure embracing perspectives and his notion of embracing failure (‘pain’) as a fundamental motivator in life is as unconventional as it is apropos to this blog…

  • “The common sense view of pain and pleasure is that humans seek pleasure and try to avoid pain. Lately I’ve come to wonder if that’s backwards, or at least incomplete. I see too many examples in which people appear to be chasing pain…My theory is that our biggest motivator is the need to feel alive, and that pleasure isn’t a sharp enough feeling to get us there. When you’re bored or lonely, you’re feeling something closer to death than life. And so you seek out pain to remind yourself that you’re alive.

    “By this theory, the quest for pain is the primary motivator of all major life choices…One test of a theory is that it can predict people’s actions. And indeed you can see that people routinely choose activities that deliver pain. Consider a distance runner, for example. The health benefits of running are largely achieved in the first few miles. The rest is a pain that confirms we are alive.”

    ”Everyone chooses the pain they like best. For the runner, muscle pain is the drug of choice. For a soldier in a volunteer army, it might be the fear of combat, or the harsh living conditions. For the entrepreneur, it might be the fear of failing. Everyone picks their own brand of pain. Sometimes we call that pain "challenge" to disguise it.”

    ”Consider sports. Most sports are designed to guarantee failure for the majority of participants. In amateur tennis, if you join a league, and you start winning more than you lose, the computer rankings bump you up to the next level where you will mostly lose. You would think that a system designed to make participants feel like losers most of the time would become extinct, but it thrives.”

    ”Golf is an entire game built around making something that is naturally easy – putting a ball into a hole – as difficult as possible, to guarantee plenty of losing. In football you’re normally thwarted every few yards. In baseball you strike out more than you hit. If winning were the payoff, sports would be a business where participants paid opponents to intentionally lose.”

    Perhaps you think losing is necessary to make the winning feel good. But consider small kids. For them, life is so vivid that they need no reminder they are alive. Every second is a miracle. And little kids prefer activities with no losing whatsoever. Only the winning appeals to them. As we get older, and our sensation of living dulls, we seek the pain that confirms our existence. We seek sports to increase our losing.”