The Two-Headed Source of Your Obstacles in Life

Upstream from the endless barrage of obstacles in life is a single source: the two-headed monster of complacency and delusion.


Key Points

  • You can’t take on any obstacle in life until you know what it is.
  • All life’s little obstacles come from a two-headed source: complacency and delusion.
  • Overcoming this “monster” is impossible, but taking it on can be rewarding.

“The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.”

Charles Baudelaire

“You’ll never find the solution if you don’t see the problem.”

Gilbert K. Chesterton

I’ve spent years wondering what my problem is.

By that, I don’t mean some navel-gazing, self-pitying, “What’s wrong with me?” kind of problem. I mean, a “What’s wrong with the world?” type of problem that I can commit to fighting for purpose, motivation, adventure, and even a profession.

I know the outcome I want: For you, me, and everyone else who comes to The Zag to pump up our lives as far as we can into their potential.

But what’s the obstacle in the way?

There seems to be an endless stream: fear, self-justification, closed-mindedness, hunger, limiting beliefs, reality, laziness. Taking them on feels like fighting an army of immortal fire ants. I feel like a madman swinging, slapping, and hollering wildly, but accomplishing nothing.

But what if this ant army has a general? Something upstream of these endless obstacles that I can focus my attacks on more strategically.

Well, thanks to a new vehicle, the deep knowledge of artificial intelligence, I could explore further upstream than ever. And I’ve come face-face-face with my problem—the meta obstacle in life that holds us back from enjoying ever more fulfilling lives:

The two-headed monster of complacency and delusion.


The First Head: Complacency

Symptoms of Complacency’s Bear Hug

  • Low energy
  • Procrastination
  • Perfectionism
  • Lost track of time
  • Conformity
  • Hypersensitivity to insult
  • Poor physical health
  • Unhealthy habits
  • Boredom
  • Hollow social life
  • Wistful regret
  • Complaining

Complacency is the home decorator of your comfort zone.

It lures you in with the friendly feeling of familiarity, then sprays a find mist of soothing “Here and Now” molecules like serotonin and oxytocin that make you feel at ease. But the longer you laze about in there scrolling on your phone, eating snacks, or doing whatever you’re accustomed to, the more out of shape, slothful, unmotivated, and fearful you get. Bad habits engrain into your brain deeper than butt grooves in your favorite couch. Eventually your comfort zone becomes a hellish danger zone that you’re too feeble to do anything about.

The seemingly obvious antidote is to proactively make yourself uncomfortable by pushing yourself to do things that scare you. Like weight training for your brain and body, the discomfort causes temporary pain that makes expands your comfort zone in the long run.

But you can’t force yourself to be uncomfortable any which way. That’s like going to the gym and jerking around weights willy-nilly: Rather than make gains, you’ll waste your energy and hurt yourself. Then you’ll retreat into the suck of complacency’s warm embrace.

So we need to fight complacency with a solid strategy. But that’s not so easy because of the other head atop this monster, delusion.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Delusion close-up

The Second Head: Delusion

Symptoms of Delusion’s Trickery

  • Missing perspective
  • Feelings of purposelessness
  • Poor decision making
  • Impatience
  • Lack of self-awareness
  • Harmful competitiveness
  • Self-justifying behavior and beliefs
  • Closed-mindedness
  • Prejudice
  • All cognitive biases

Delusion drops you into the jungle of life, straps a set of blinders on your head with beer goggles at the end, and puts a funhouse mirror in front of you.

With no clarity on where to go in life and what you’re made of, you bumble around aimlessly, running into dead ends, falling off cliffs, getting stuck in quicksand, and feeling worse and worse about yourself for being such a loser. Delusion offers you all sorts of excuses to grab onto, such as genetic deficiency, bad luck, and unfairness. But those lead you down into such a Mariana Trench of a rut that you’ll never be able to climb out again to see the slightest glimmer of light.

Another trick up delusion’s sleeve is to fool you into believing you’ve figured everything out. Beliefs cement into your brain so solidly that nothing new can seep in. Then delusion snickers as you put your hard head down and plow forward into the abyss.

Either that or delusion convinces you that others have overcome it. So you grab their coattails and follow their seemingly less distorted paths. But that’s their path, not yours, which is unlikely to be a rewarding one for you.

What About External Obstacles?

Jerks, natural disasters, economic downturns, and unfortunate physical health conditions can drastically enhance the difficulty of taking life in fulfilling directions.

They’re the lay of the land.

By definition, these external obstacles out of our control. Fighting them is as pointless as punching a mountain in your way and yelling at the clouds to stop raining at you.

Close-up on person

Fight the Unfair Fight

“The important thing about a problem is not its solution, but the strength we gain in finding the solution.”


Maybe delusion’s got its fangs in me, but I believe it and its Siamese twin, complacency, are the source of all obstacles in life.

Knowing this two-headed monster is my enemy, I can research the best strategies for overcoming it. This clarity also fuels me with extra motivation to put what I learn into action.

Futile as my fight may be, I’m confident it’s going to be fun and fulfilling. And that’s the only outcome I ever wanted, anyway.

If you’d like to follow my adventures and fight complacency and delusion yourself, subscribe to my popular newsletter to get my best ideas. I send a fun new issue every other Thursday.

And if you’re keen to start now, you might enjoy these related posts:

About the author

👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

Leave a Comment

Latest Articles


The Zag shares my adventures off of the boring beaten paths of life and ideas for finding your own unfollowable path.