The Cost of Success

When I was in high school, I so desperately wanted a car.

I watched as my friends, one by one, inevitably received theirs as a gift or scraped together enough cash to buy a grotesque clunker, replete with mysterious smells and stains. I was involved with an extracurricular school activity that ate up a ton of my free time, so I was barely able to work enough to afford a tree-shaped air freshener, let alone a motor vehicle.

When I finally got my first car the summer after high school, I was deliriously happy. It was an old Mustang – not a “classic” year, unless you consider the ’90s to be classic – and it was all mine. I would go for drives for no reason, just to experience the sense of newfound freedom and wish fulfillment I had been suddenly afforded.

Eventually, though, the novelty wore off. I started getting annoyed by the fact that the chassis would rattle if I went over… uh, zero miles per hour. I let In-N-Out bags pile up under the passenger seat. I had even less money than before because of the cost of endless repairs, gas, and (infrequent) car washes. All these new problems sprang up where before there were none. Why couldn’t the damn thing just work without needing to be fixed all the time??

I wanted a new car.

And on it goes – you achieve a goal, get a new toy, hit some imagined milestone, and you experience the intoxicating rush of dopamine… for a time. But then, new and previously unforeseen problems spring up.

The cost of success is that success inherently brings with it new problems. You begin a relationship with a significant other and you’re overjoyed during the honeymoon period, but the breakup leaves you feeling worse than when you started. You start a new job that pays more and comes with a fancy title, but with money and responsibility comes greater stress and expectations.

You win the Stanley Cup twice in three years, and anything less starts to feel like a miserable kick to the gut.

There’s actually a scientific term for this psychological phenomenon: it’s called the Hedonic Treadmill, which is “the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.”

The positively orgasmic joy you felt in 2012 when the Kings won their first Stanley Cup was probably followed by something perhaps a notch less intense after their 2014 victory. And now, those resplendent memories have probably faded and dulled in your mind already, like a hackneyed Instagram filter cruelly slapped over a previously vivid and brilliant experience.

Like dope fiends, the Kings’ success over the last few years has left us rabid for another hit of defied expectations, of superhuman achievement, of legendary comebacks and last-minute goals. And when we don’t get it – when instead, we’re faced with watching the Kings lose to the Edmonton Oilers in nauseating fashion – we petulantly chafe at our circumstances, lash out at scapegoats, feel sick with disappointment.

But ironically, just as the years of disappointing performances by the Kings before 2010 were necessary to forge a winning team, it is bitter disappointment that will ultimately refresh your ability to be gladdened by the team’s future victories. Too much of a good thing will inevitably sour it for you. For example, here’s a VICE article about a guy who ate nothing but Nutella for a week (spoiler: he uncontrollably vomited brown acid).

We need to know disappointment, we need to know loss, we need to feel the darkness in order to truly appreciate the sensation of warm sunlight on our face.

At the time of this writing, there are two games left in the regular season. There’s a substantial chance that these may be the last two games we get to see for almost half a year. Don’t watch them with a chip on your shoulder or with bitterness in your heart. Watch them as a hockey fan – no, as a Kings fan, who knows the cyclical nature of sports and all things; who knows that in the great drama of life, any inevitable disappointment only serves to set us up for a more exuberant moment of happiness later.

Relish these last two regular season games. The clacking of sticks against the ice, the sharp thud of a slap shot that missed its mark, the grunts and shouts of our favorite players doing everything they can not to disappoint us – for diehard, lifelong hockey fans like you and I, these things are too beautiful to let slip away unregarded because of our place in the standings.

Oh, and one more thing:

We’re not eliminated yet.

As a child, King Tufficult liked to hang out at Iceoplex to watch his dad’s summer skating group that included many gloriously mulleted individuals. Some of the people attached to those mullets played for the early 90′s LA Kings. It was destiny. Since then, King Tufficult is best known for extensively traveling in Europe during the Cup Finals and writing “The Post” after Game 6 of the 2014 WCF. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can follow King Tufficult on Twitter @KingTufficult.