James at loss

James is a very smart and creative guy. He has grown as an independent thinker and prepared himself for a university carrier. Fast and original thinking was his main asset. It was clear that James was a good fit. Not only was he able to conduct high quality research, but also enthusiastically teach and supervise both students and PhD students well. James applied for a position at a good university.

It was not an arbitrary position, but a specific position toward which he had grown for years. The position was created as a continuation of work that was close to his heart and expertise. He was not only experienced with the work, but more importantly he adored it and was good at. Everybody knew about it.

One day there was an interview for this position. The interview went OK, but despite all the hopes, James was rejected. There were many international candidates. All smart guys. He made a good impression but not the best. He was simply judged to have been missing both managerial and networking skills. Indeed, he was not good at promoting, or selling research or project proposals. It was something to learn.

So, although he hoped for this position, it turned out it was not for him.

It was a hard pill to swallow for James. Much harder than he had imagined.

Disappointment was real and touched James deeply. Very deeply. James did not know what else he might have been doing. It was a dream position he hoped for and prepared for.

What else was to happen to him?

Letting it go

Slowly, he started to look for other positions. And again it became clear to him how much the managerial skills were important. “Too much” he was thinking. After many enquiries, he finally found a job as a college/university teacher. This gave him some joy as he loved to teach. It gave him challenges too. Many students were unmotivated and usually unprepared, unfortunately. So, oftentimes, he had to behave like a policeman forcing knowledge on students. What a pity!

He gave everything to have become the best teacher. He was liked and appreciated there. Yet despite the good results, he was missing the joy of creative thinking. He knew that he was capable of much, much more. He was a scientist in every cell of his body. He wanted to do research. He wanted to create.

And at the moment he thought he was destined to work as a teacher, a little miracle occurred to his surprise.

The little miracle

Thanks to the contribution of few people at the first university a new position was created especially for James. It was an exception on all levels. A specially crafted position. It was created in a way that seemed impossible within the university structure, yet it was possible. As a result, James has become both researcher and teacher doing the work he has loved so much.  He has been fulfilled ever since.

Isn’t that great?

Jack at a crossroads

Jack is a very smart and creative guy. He has grown as an independent thinker and prepared himself for a university carrier. Similarly as James, he was working as a college teacher, but he did it for an additional experience. He choose to work at a university.

His path toward a fixed appointment was long and adventurous, even though he was delivering and producing high quality research output. Much higher than many professors around. Yet, similarly as James, Jack did not like to promote himself. He was a modest person.

After many years at the university, Jack was offered a fixed appointment. It was OKish but not just with respect to the quality and quantity of work Jack was delivering. Jack was simply very good.

Yet, when Jack inquired about the conditions necessary for a promotion he was told it would impossible for him. There was no way for him to fulfil the key responsibilities for the department and it was unclear for Jack why it was so. These were the managerial tasks.

It was a hard pill to swallow for Jack. Much harder than he had imagined.

Disappointment was real and touched Jack deeply. He really wanted to continue at the university where he was. Jack had already gone through may trainings, multitude of university tasks and managerial responsibilities. And it seemed impossible to continue it further on.

What was he to do about it?

Letting it go

After some deep thinking, Jack decided to apply for a higher position at another university. This would have introduced additional challenges for him, including extra travelling, but he was prepared for that. He went for an interview and was judged as very good. And when he was about to have been offered such a job there, the interviewing professors asked for references at his current university.


And then, to his surprise Jack was considered as a pure gold at his own university, not to be lost to another one. What a surprise!

Jack was offered a promotion. A promotion he clearly worked for, longed for and fully deserved. And he has been enjoying it well.

Isn’t that great?



What is the moral of these stories?

When you really, really, really want something badly, you must give the best of yourself and, yet, be willing to accept the loss. You have to want it desperately and work towards it, but when the time comes, you have to let it go. Push hard, yet withdraw from the outcome.

You may live through the loss and perhaps investigating alternative routes before you are ready to enjoy the gain.


Simply because you can only truly win when you are emotionally detached from the outcome.

Intention, passion and action are necessary.

Yet, it is the detachment from the outcome or letting it go that is the last ingredient in the ultimate formula of success.

It does not guarantee the final achievement or result, but it keeps you at the center (between the opposites), where happiness is practiced through the learning and the journey and not because of the results.

When you detach from the outcome, you add some degrees of freedom to your life. And this freedom, counterintuitively, increases your chances of the result.


Photo copyright by Moyan Brenn. Photo available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.


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