You’ve probably heard the saying before. “Close, but no cigar.” There’s another one you may have also heard of, “Almost doesn’t count, except for horseshoes and hand grenades.”

They’re both talking about the same thing: there are times when you’ll come close to getting what you want. Maybe you’ll come really close. But what does “close” get you at the end of the day? Still nothing.

I have my version of this metaphor that I use in my coaching.

Imagine you’re at a slot machine. There are 3 spinners. You put the money into the slot and pull the arm. The spinners start spinning, and then one by one they come to a stop.

Spin spin spin… 7… your mind perks up as it notices the beginning of a jackpot.

Spin spin spin… another 7 … you start to get excited, your heart beats faster, your eyes widen in anticipation of the last spinner.

Spin spin spin… and then BAR. An instant of disappointment with the hormones of excitement still lingering in your blood. Your heart still beating quickly, your eyes still wide, you reach into your pocket for more change to feed into the machine.

At this point there are certain thoughts that are happening. They might go something like this:

  • “Oh it’s so close!”
  • “Almost! I just have to try a little harder.”
  • “Look, the third 7 is right there underneath the BAR! I can see it. If it would just move a teeny bit, I’d have it.”

None of these thoughts change the fact that what you got was a 7-7-BAR. No amount of wanting, wishing, or desiring it to be another way will make any difference. In the end, what payout do you get? Nothing.

Here’s the thing: the people who designed the slot machine are counting on your inability to let go so that you’ll keep feeding money and keep trying again until you have nothing left. It’s up to you to face the reality of what happened: you wanted a jackpot, and you didn’t get it. It’s as simple as that. The fact that it was close is a kind of mind candy that can string us along until we end up somewhere we never wanted to be in the first place.

This kind of thing happens out in real life all the time:

  • Your relationship with your partner is “pretty good” except for a few key fundamental differences. You decide to ignore these for now and keep going, only to have the arguments get more and more heated as time goes on.
  • Your parents overstepped your boundaries a few times, but you’ve convinced yourself it’s “not a big deal” in order to keep the peace. You now tend to keep quiet when you go visit them, silently judging every word they say.
  • … other similar situations involving friends, co-workers, or other people in your life.

This usually results in building resentments, a feeling of “settling” for something when you deserve better, or a feeling of being held back. I’m not saying you should always abandon things that are close but not exactly what you want. Just be certain about what’s actually important… what your 7’s actually are.

For example, when looking for a romantic partner, things that are essential to me are:

  • Ability to communicate openly and honestly, especially about uncomfortable or confronting issues;
  • Ability to admit fault and learn from mistakes;
  • Actions consistent with words.

These are my 7s. Everything else is “nice to have.” In other words, their absence is a dealbreaker. Being clear about these makes decisions quick and simple for me. There’s less hemming and hawing, less “what ifs.”

I’m not saying life becomes less emotional or more comfortable. Simple doesn’t mean easy. What does happen is that life starts moving faster. Both the good and bad come at me at a quicker pace. Change and learning is amplified and accelerated.

The alternative is to stay stuck in a place that may be comfortable for the time being, but with an ever growing gnawing sensation at the back of your mind that this is not the place you want to be. People get stuck here for months, years, or even decades. Sometimes, unfortunately, for their entire lives.

When you’re ready to stand for what you really want, that also means saying “no” to anything that is not that. It takes a willingness to let go of the branch that’s supporting you in the hopes that there’s another one to catch you. It’s scary. It takes guts, it takes courage. It takes the willingness to fail and the faith that you’ll get back up again.

This is resilience, and this is what it takes to shape your life.

What can you do about it now?

If you find yourself in a place you never really intended to be, like you’re settling for something that is “almost” it, or living on the hopes that things might change in the future with no real path of action forward, here’s what you can do about it.

Step 1: Take the situation for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • There is definitely some good in your situation. Allow yourself to see it. When we don’t get what we want, sometimes our anger or frustration will have us focus on all the things we don’t want.
  • There will be some grieving. Give yourself time for this. Grief happens whenever there is a change in your life. You need to grieve over the loss of the life you had, even if the change is positive/good!

Step 2: Once you’re in a balanced, stable mindset and your emotions have cleared, what you want and don’t want will be easy to see.

  • If you don’t want to try again, learn what you can and move on. “Moving on” includes allowing yourself to grieve the loss of what you had. This is something that American culture just doesn’t allow much room for; we’re pushed to be ultra-happy all the time.
  • If you do try again, be sure you’re trying again from a clean slate. Your chances of getting triple-7 this time are the same as last time. The fact that you came close last time doesn’t impact your chances this time. Take it as a completely clean first shot.


  • Is there something you’re facing that was coming up for you as you were reading this blog?
  • Is there something you’ve just been tolerating and are now somewhere so completely different from where you wanted to be in the first place?
  • What did this blog open up for you? Do you have new insights and new actions to take? Or do you have more questions?

Please tell me, I’d love to know!
You can email me: Steve@CoachSteveYang.com

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