Randy thinks people spend far too much complaining about their problems, and should instead channel that energy into fixing them. Randy has known some “terrific non-complainers” in his life, a chief example being Sandy Blatt, Randy’s landlord during graduate school. When Sandy was a young man, a truck backed into him while he was unloading boxes and knocked him into the cellar of a building, breaking his back and making Sandy quadriplegic. At that time, Sandy was a star athlete and engaged to be married, but he didn’t want to be a burden to his fiancé, so he gave her the option of leaving him without any hard feelings, which she did. So, Sandy worked hard, became a licensed marriage counselor, and eventually got married and adopted kids.
Sandy Blatt is a great example of the importance of earning success rather than being entitled. Sandy never wallows about the bad hand life dealt him: instead, he takes on a proactive attitude and does positive things to improve his life. By doing this, he helps other people improve their relationships and he is ultimately able to find love himself. Sandy was able to achieve his dream of having kids by working hard at it, being positive, and not stopping until it happened.
Randy’s favorite non-complainer is Jackie Robinson, who, as the first non-white baseball player, endured racism that many people today couldn’t fathom. Jackie “knew he had to play better than the white guys, and he knew he had to work harder.” So that’s what Jackie Robinson did—and he never complained, not even when fans spit on him. Randy is saddened that many kids today don’t know anything about Jackie Robinson, as the message in his and Sandy Blatt’s stories is that complaining doesn’t work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy, and “any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”
Jackie Robinson, like Sandy Blatt, is a prime example of having a positive attitude in the face of harsh circumstances. Jackie Robinson saw in the obstacle of racism an opportunity to outwork everyone else in the league. His success and his refusal to feel entitled paved the way for the diverse makeup of Major League Baseball today. And yet, at the same time, Randy’s description of Jackie Robinson seems to imply that Robinson wouldn’t have been as good a player in a non-racist context, and it seems to implicitly blame other minority players at the time for not working as hard as Robinson and earning their places in the league alongside him. Further, what does it mean to refuse to complain about racism? Were civil rights protesters “complaining” about racism? This is not to say that Randy’s advice is wrong, but rather to point out that it is very much focused on how one individual should react to personal obstacles, and that such advice starts to get complicated when you start thinking about it in terms of how someone should react to other types of “obstacles,” such as the injustice of segregation. In such situations, an insistence on “not complaining” can often be used as a weapon by the powerful to quiet those whom the powerful are exploiting or oppressing.