Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Often in life, you will come across that stage where you feel bogged down by the myriad choices – more than one way of achieving your goals. We all have a certain sense of hard-wired, biological instinct that spurs us into action, fuels our ambition with an unabated greed for something good and the unfinished lure of something bigger and better.



So here’s the deal – you are stuck with a very difficult decision to make; it could make or break your next goal. On one hand, you can go all-out to force a positive career result, but it could mar your family life. Still, you will have the satisfaction of fulfilling your lifelong dream. On the other hand, you can sit back and indefinitely postpone your dream, your ambitions, just so that you will not, in any way, hurt the people close to you.

Which road do you take?

Whichever choice you make in life, one thing is for certain – you and you alone will have to live with it. Detractors and conformists will come and go, some will pelt rocks at you, and other will lay your path with beautiful red rose petals. Yet when your clock ticks its last, it will be just you, lying there–with any luck, not kicking and screaming. Which brings us to the question – are you happy with your life?

Are you? Chances are, even if you are not happy on your deathbed, you were once savoring your life for all it had to offer. What set you apart then? Did you have that evolutionary killer-instinct?

Google has been notorious about buying out smaller companies that could challenge its status in the web world. Talks are now in place to buy Yahoo! So what do most people think about this deal? As with everything, there are two schools of thought:

  • Google should let the weaker competitor survive. Google should become stronger by making itself better, not by killing off the competition.
  • Google has the financial and technical know-how to dominate the web world, and it should. Google can provide a sense of discipline to an otherwise chaotic environment.

Both of these are valid points, but which one does Google subscribe to?

Do you think the heads at Google will read this or any other post that debates the point about Yahoo’s acquisition? Chances are they won’t. They don’t have the time and resources to track down every single detractor and justify their actions by engaging in debate.

Neither should you.

Often in your life, you will have to step on someone to get somewhere. If you consider yourself an ethical person and calculate all your actions so as to not hurt a single soul, I must warn you: You WILL hurt someone. It won’t be intentional, but these things happen.

Being ambitious with raw killer-instinct is one mark of a strong character trait. As long as you don’t go around aimlessly swinging your Machete at whoever’s in front of you, and provided your goal is not to trample others and climb their lifeless bodies in your hasty rise up the mountain of success, there is nothing wrong with ambition and competitive instinct. But you will have to make some difficult choices – you will have to choose one course of action, or one person, instead of the other. Some of these important choices include choosing between career and family, choosing between ethics or shareholders, or choosing between sharing this post and not sharing it. Either way, you are damned to disappoint someone – be it yourself or another – or to foreclose one opportunity by choosing to take another. You are now better informed and will live with the knowledge that you could have made a small difference by taking action, or by not taking it.

Just don’t live with regrets. Know that what you did in any situation was the best you could have done, given the circumstances. All of us wish to go back and change time and our actions, only a few accept things the way they are and move forward.

Be one of them.

Tweet about this post and spread the message, make a difference. If you don’t someone else will come along and do it anyway, but would you not want to be responsible for changing someone’s life for better?

Be that person.

Tell us of one thing you really wish to change in your life. And then think hard and tell us if changing that would make your life as good as you expect it to be.

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About Neeraj Sachdeva

Neeraj is a life-geek, who enjoys talking about Psychology and Freelancing. His freelancing endeavor focuses on kick-starting start-ups and small businesses by using practical and timely experience. In his free time, he helps budding freelancers, and you can read about his journey on The Freelancer Diary.

About Neeraj Sachdeva

Neeraj is a life-geek, who enjoys talking about Psychology and Freelancing. His freelancing endeavor focuses on kick-starting start-ups and small businesses by using practical and timely experience. In his free time, he helps budding freelancers, and you can read about his journey on The Freelancer Diary.


  1. this statement is all about risk…taking the plunge and going for it..thats what i think

  2. Well.. I don’t know why.. But I am obsessed with setting limits for myself. I live by my “code”. Maybe because I am afraid of what will happen if i go.. um.. limitless. 😐
    Anyway, in this particular case, the task is defining “selfishness”. You are the one who’ll have to live by the decisions to make. But does that mean that whatever you do.. you should do it for yourself? No point in making a little sacrifice?
    Choice is your’s to make.

  3. It’s nice to read a post that makes you stop and think about yourself and the things you do on a daily basis.
    I did make a change, several years ago, that made a huge difference in my life and the life of my family. Almost 20 years ago, I quit drinking. It made my home life better, but the people I’ve hung out with since jr. high rarely speak to me anymore. Then, 2 years ago, I quit smoking. I know it’s better for my health and the health of those close to me, but other members of my family who still smoke find it hard to understand why I won’t let them smoke in my house anymore.
    I’m sure this isn’t exactly what this post was about, but these are the choices I’ve made to improve my own world, and yet I’ve seen these things that are supposed to better my life, become an issue with those around me. I may live longer now, but the people I thought were my friends and some family members shun me. But I did what I had to do to make my own life easier and I don’t regret my decisions.
    Christine Senter recently posted..My Paranormal IdeaMy Profile

    • Hey Christine, regardless of what the post was about, your comment brings out personal touch which is nice to read about. The choices you made have made your life better, and consequently that of people around you. Not many people can honestly say that. As for those who shun you because of these choices, well, when they understand the value of you or value of what you did, they will come around. In the long run, small quick-fix solutions hardly pay off.

  4. My next goal is to improve my health. And the first step I am taking toward that goal is to gather inspiration and information from The Next Goal.

    Thank you all.


  5. “We often stand by a roadside accident hoping that someone in the crowd is a doctor, and would help the injured person. However, this kind of thinking, where we keep passing the buck is what makes the society what it is now ( We need to stand up and make a difference by taking action. If we don’t someone else will anyway, but why pass the chance?”

    Why the **** didn’t you write THAT post, Neeraj? 🙂 It’s so true.

    And it’s so much more rewarding to step in, instead. After Hurricane Katrina, the thought of sending just money didn’t work from me. I’m 20 miles or so from the Astrodome, where evacuees from New Orleans were given temporary shelter. I had to DO something. I also wanted my college-bound daughter to see just how good her life was, and to have a chance to pay it forward. We went down there together. One of the most rewarding moments of my life – a goal I’d made up the minute I heard of families being separated and not knowing if loved ones were alive or dead – was to use my skills with the computer to help locate people and reunite them. In the computer center at the Astrodome, there was a big cowbell. Each time a family member was reunited with loved ones, you got to ring the bell. I got to do it several times, but the BEST time was when I found an older man’s daughter staying just miles down the road at a motel. She had a car, and within 15 minutes, she was there to pick up her dad. He was just so amazed that I’d found her so quickly – he’d been trying to figure out how to use the computer to search, and within about 5 minutes, I had her on the phone. I still choke up, thinking how that could have been my dad and me. Sometimes, we’re as blessed by such things as the people we’re helping.
    Holly Jahangiri recently posted..It’s Not Over Until it’s OverMy Profile

    • At some point, I would like to pen something on the bystander effect, and why we shouldn’t be one 🙂 Your story about Hurricane Katrina is very touching (didn’t realize you were so close). Even reading what you wrote gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, what you felt must be a different feeling altogether.

  6. sheherazahde says:

    This post came across to me as a manipulative attempt to get people to forward your post, like a chain letter.
    The message I came away with is that if I want to make a difference in the world I should forward your post and if I don’t forward you post I’m choosing not to make a difference in the world.
    But I don’t feel the post says anything else but “forward me or you are not choosing to be a good person”. That feels manipulative, I would not feel good about myself if I gave into that kind of manipulation. I like to forward things that make me feel good and change my life in a positive way. I don’t see that here.

    • Hi! My apologies that you felt manipulated and offended by this post. This was not my intention.

      However, for many readers, that was inevitable. I don’t stick to the crowd, I don’t like rehashing points that have been made before, for I find them boring and often, untrue. Through this post, by playing a Devil’s advocate, I want to highlight the ugly side of choices we make. Irrespective of the choices we make, we often look inward and do what serves us (and people close to us) best. For that reason, I will not apologize for the content in this post.

      My intention, through this post, was to incite you to take an action for whatever your next goal is. We often stand by a roadside accident hoping that someone in the crowd is a doctor, and would help the injured person. However, this kind of thinking, where we keep passing the buck is what makes the society what it is now ( We need to stand up and make a difference by taking action. If we don’t someone else will anyway, but why pass the chance?

      My intention, through this post, was to make you realize that you, and only you can command your life. We are born alone, and we die alone, with nothing else in tow. So why live life by someone else’s rules? After all, we will have to live with consequences of our action, no one else will.

      Also, congratulations. By reading this post, disagreeing with it, and sharing your disagreement about it, you have taken an action. That action doesn’t have to be congruent with what I ask of you. Instead, it has to be congruent with you, so that you can exercise your freewill. This is what you did, and proved my point, that you should do what you want to do and not what you have been asked to do. So I say this without sarcasm – Thank you and Congrats!

      I’d be happy to alleviate any other concerns you have, so feel free to post.

  7. I don’t think that at any point one has to specifically step on someone’s toes to succeed. If someone is disappointed in your success because they wanted it to be theirs, it’s their problem. If you took a job offered to you that blocks someone else out, that’s also someone else’s problem. However, if you have to destroy someone or cheat someone out of their hard work to get there… nope, I couldn’t live with that. A fair competition is one thing; if I win or lose, at least it was fair. Otherwise, it’s just unethical.

    However, I also want to address your first question; family or success. To me, if family isn’t interested in your success, then it wasn’t a match made in heaven to begin with. Now, does that mean I’d support working 20 hours a day for big dollars but never get to see my family? not even close; there still has to be some balance. But would I give up the chance to tour 6 months a year as a musician to stay home with my family making barely more than minimum wage? Nope.

    True, there are hard decisions, but that’s what being an adult is all about.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..What If Your Dreams Came True?My Profile

    • Thanks, Mitch!

      I agree. I think that if you value business, money, work MORE than you value spouse, kids, fun – maybe you shouldn’t have the latter, you know? I argued that it’s important to act in accordance with your core values. Would your FAMILY have a sense of security, of being loved and valued, of having their needs (and some of their wants) met, if you stayed home and worked at a minimum wage that made you unhappy and regretful over passing up that touring opportunity? Families should support the goals and aspirations of ALL their members, in my opinion. No one should feel they’re being unreasonably held back or stuck in a holding pattern. In fact, my husband of nearly 30 years informed me – INFORMED ME (as if he forgot we’d already agreed to this BEFORE marriage) – “If either of us ever gets a chance to go to outer space, the other doesn’t get to say no.” And if one of us does, he doesn’t have a right to refuse to buy an insurance policy that will let me retire immediately – in comfort – should he not make it back. See how easy it is to come up with a win-win? 🙂

    • Mitch, I completely dig your point about balance between family and career, one that is much needed after my completely open stance on family and career. I think family should always support your ambitions and help you along the way (rather than be a negative force), but we also need to make sure that we don’t cause irrecoverable damage while doing so. Thank you for the comment, much appreciated 🙂

      • My kids have an infinite array of choices to make in their lives. A few that would break my heart: To put MY happiness above their own, and risk missing wonderful opportunities; to completely DISREGARD my happiness and leave, ignore, or shun me forever; to callously hurt others on their own path to success, robbing them of their right to “pursue happiness.” If they can avoid those three things, I think we’re good. 🙂

  8. I recently read somewhere that the more choices you have, the harder a decision is to make, therefore, you should give someone a limited amount of choices, maybe really only two or three.
    Mike Shields ( recently posted..Are You On Team 33?My Profile

    • That’s assuming you’re giving – or being given – choices by someone else! 😉 It’s true, though. And if the choices are all open to us, and overwhelming, it’s good to start with the process of elimination first – get all the ones you’re not going to choose off the table and out of the way.

    • Hi Mike, its the famous 21st century conundrum. Almost everything now comes with plenty of options and ‘what-if’ opportunities. I am told things were simpler a few decades ago.

  9. A provocative post.

    I think so long as our choices are in line with our core values, we won’t likely live with regrets. And there are ways to choose one path, while mitigating the damage – you know, a child leaves home to study abroad and pursue a lifelong dream, a goal, knowing that his parents will not live forever. He shouldn’t wait until they’re dead to live his own life, either – because they may well live a good, long, fulfilling life while he puts his own on hold and waits. But to mitigate their hurt feelings and disappointment by his “abandonment,” he makes an effort to keep in touch and SHARE his life – his joys and frustrations, his learnings and accomplishments, so that they don’t feel so distant. You see, I believe in a win-win outcome, wherever possible. It’s not always possible, but we can try for it. Build bridges as we march through life, not burn them.

    Have you ever read the book, Getting to Yes – ?
    Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’tMy Profile

    • Excellent point Holly, I think sticking to our core values and going for win-win outcomes is the best way possible. I have tried to present both sides of the coin without being biased towards one. The only side I have leaned towards is the one that supports living life with no regrets. If the child is wise enough, which he is, he will try and balance both sides, which he will. Unfortunately, the child, me, cannot live his life for everyone, so the simplest thing to do is living for himself. As you might have guessed, this post was borne out of the illusion of choices, when really, we have none.

      • No one can please everyone, all the time. Wasn’t that what Captain Kangaroo said? Or did he say “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool Mom”? I don’t remember, now, who said what – but my point is that you do always have choices. In this case: do the soul-killing thing and live according to someone else’s vision of what your life ought to be (which is unfair, given they’ve had their choices and lived theirs); do the utterly selfish thing – exactly what you want to do, without regard for the feelings of others (I think that might lead to regrets, one day, when it’s far too late to undo the damage); or life your life fully, but be sure to include loved ones in it. That’s three choices – which one is REALLY the easiest? When your ID and your Superego are both satisfied, YOU (the Ego) can go on knowing you’ve made the best decision. You are constantly mediating those two.
        Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Hit The Road-How To Achieve Your Travel GoalsMy Profile