Nobody Is Going To Save You

Cactus GloveSometimes life throws you a piss-filled water balloon, and you’re wearing cactus gloves.

During the 2004 season the Carolina Panthers, with high hopes for another Superbowl shot, were riddled with injuries. Instead of a Superbowl run, they had a 1-7 start.

With their starters benched, the second, third, and sometimes, fourth and fifth stringers had to step up. Coach John Fox had an important message for the team:

Nobody is going to come save you.

Fox’s Zen-like “It is what it is” approach points out a reality of life — it’s all up to you.

They came back to win 6 of their last 8 games, just missing the playoffs.

With a Little Help from Your Friends

Having support and having a crutch is not the same thing.

The support of family and friends is crucial, especially during setbacks. But expecting those same folks to rescue you, or to get you out of a spot, is the quickest way to lose that support.

Success starts and ends with you.

Momentum as a Weapon

There is a monumental difference between a setback and a failure:

  • A setback is one of those inevitabilities of life, when things don’t go according to plan.
  • A failure is when you give up, or don’t try, when you still want to reach your goal.

You can’t have successes without setbacks, just like you can’t have good without evil, or light without dark.

They are part of the same thing — one can’t exist without the other.

The only way to overcome a setback is to get up, brush the dirt off your vest or put on your big girl panties (or both), and begin moving forward. Once you have momentum, it gets easier — because momentum is the best weapon against the setbacks.

Accepting the setbacks, learning from mistakes, and getting back on track makes you the hero of your own story.

It’s how you go on.

It’s how you save yourself.


  1. Yet another superb article.

    I think I have been confusing my family and friends for crutches, rather than support, a lot lately. Something that hasn’t really helped me achieve the success I have been looking for.

    I also think a lot of businesses can take this advice, when the going gets tough, nobody is going to save you (but yourself).

  2. This I know all too well.

    When 18 years ago I decided to fly across the pond to persue my career in -“Making Computers do stuff”- I quickly realized that in times of peril there are few people you can count on for support. When after a lay-off set back I truly needed someone to rescue me, be it only for 2 weeks, I realized quickly how much on my own I actually was.

    -“Remember, an unconfoirmed expectation is a set up for a disillusion”-

    Since then, I have been preparing for the worst and enjoying the best.

  3. Thanks for another great motivating post. We’d never appreciate the small gains and successes in life nearly as much if it weren’t for those setbacks. There’s nothing like the feeling of persevering in the face of what seems to be an insurmountable obstacle…and then finding success!

  4. The piss-filled baloon is a good analogy! “Focus on the negative, and problems become obstacles. Focus on the positive, and problems become stepping stones.” A quote from yours truly. We can’t know the light until we see darkness, and failure is part of the game.

  5. I think momentum is often overlooked. You are better off attempting a few projects where you are virtually guaranteed to succeed early on and build off that momentum as you undertake more difficult projects in the future.

  6. Tanner – It’s often a hard, but an important lesson to learn. I doesn’t mean that no one will help, but you have to be responsible for yourself.

    Michel – Looking around and seeing nobody there to help can be challenging. But in a way, it’s also liberating.

    Zen – True — and when you look back on what you’ve accomplished the victory is even sweeter.

    Mike – Great quote. Making that realizing doesn’t make a setback easier, but it does make it clear that it is part of the game.

    Mark – It’s also a very effective way to learn.

  7. You know, when I read things like this, I think it’s you who should have the 22,000 subscribers. In fact, I know it.

    And then I take a moment, and realize that life’s a bitch. 🙂

  8. I laughed for a good minute at your piss-filled water balloon analogy. Sucks for whoever decided to wear their cactus gloves.

    That was really the point of this comment. Excellent article, though; it’s so true. Tough life lesson to learn, but a valuable one.

  9. How true! You know you’re in trouble when you start getting defensive, making excuses, and blaming other people for your situation.

    Stuff happens – deal with it and move on!

    I wrote a post once about the victim mentality – it’s the same kind of thing. You’re only truly a victim when you agree to be one and start playing the part.

  10. Needed the info about setbacks.
    I am a high school student (11th grade soon)
    Learning to think about the good stuff.
    The cartoon photo is so funny too.
    Last night on TV (can’t remember where)
    someone talked about making a car that
    would run on the same thing? Maybe you
    heard it also.
    I am going to keep your article to
    read again & again during my setback-times.
    Elizabeth G.
    visit me sometime at

  11. Tony,
    As I’ve said before, I’m not an entrepreneur, but I am a loyal reader. What a brilliant cartoon and description.

    I also liked your distinction between getting support and wanting to be rescued. As one of my friends used to tell her kids: “There is no fairy godmother. It’s up to you.” She was encouraging and supportive, but definitely no enabler.

  12. Yep… it’s all about momentum. I’ve been working on making a few changes — the first few days are tough… now weeks later I’m on a roll. It’s like a boulder rolling downhill.

  13. Ann – That’s a terrific point. Taking responsibility is one sure way to break out of the victim mentality.

    Elizabeth – Glad to know it helped 🙂

    Jean – Right — encouragement is key. And thanks for sharing the post.

    Meredith – Yep. Every day it seems to get a little easier. You can feel the momentum kicking in.

  14. Hi Tony:

    You’re absolutely right that it is up to us to brush the dirt off our pants and keep the momentum going because only we can do that.

    Of course, we want and need and should have the support of our family, friends, business associates when we hit the walls of adversity but it is still up to us to wipe off our butts and keep moving. There’s only so much others can do to help us get back on our feet. The rest is up to us.

    Suburb article!

    Stephen Hopson

  15. I have heard Mr. Jim Rohn state it “almost” the same way.

    He says ” No one is coming to your Rescue” and also
    “No one can do your pushups for you”

    I really am not sure if I ever wanted to be rescued. I am guilty of “onceitis” though. Once this happens, or that happens. I am working on a cure 🙂

    “Man is not the creature of circumstances. Circumstances are the creatures of men”. -Disraeli

  16. One of the biggest kicks I get is overcoming the challenges of the hand I was dealt. I have enough excuses at my disposal for being a complete drain on society… if I chose to ignore all of the benefits within my reach.

    Isn’t it always better to say “This crap happened, but look what I did” rather than, “I know I had everything I needed to get the job done, but I wasn’t cut out for the task”… I think so.

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