Fairness is subjective.
When things are going smoothly, everything seems fair. You’re riding high on the clouds, soaking in all the wonderful things life has to offer. But once you hit turbulence and rough storms, you start to feel everything turn against you. It all just feels so…unfair.
The thing is that life operates on its own terms, not yours. And while you might not like those terms, that’s the way things are. Rather than refusing to accept their existence, it’s better to acknowledge them and keep moving forward.
Here are five normal things about life that can seem enormously unfair:
1. Some people naturally have greater strengths than others.
Imagine if you were to take two individuals at random and give them violin lessons. Over the same period of time, they each receive the same lessons and put in the same 10,000 hours of practice. Would you believe that, even if given the same opportunities, one person came out a better violin player than the other?
The answer would likely be a “yes”. People with a natural affinity for a skill have the raw talent that sets them to perform at a higher level. For instance, someone may be born with a more ideal physical attribute to perform a task than someone else.
We widely believe that anyone can achieve anything if they put in enough time and effort. And yet, if someone isn’t suited towards doing a particular task, the person is better off spending their energy elsewhere.
It makes more sense to find your strengths and use them to your advantage instead of choosing something that seems appealing or popular and trying to make it work.
2. Phenomenal success is largely a result of luck.
We look at people who have achieved high levels of success and admire their intelligence, hard work, and tenacity. We figure that the highest paid performer is superior in some way to a decently-paid one.
The truth is that a big part of that gap is attributable to luck. We don’t like to believe this, since luck is largely outside our control. We like to think instead that hard work and talent alone can catapult someone from “good” to “extraordinary.”
Hard work and skill can take you to a level that is above average. But in order to reach the upper echelons, it requires a mix of opportunity and timing, which are external factors beyond our control.
3. The environment you’re in dictates your major life decisions.
If your peers go to college, you’re more likely to go to college. If everyone around you is slacking off, don’t think that you’ll be the one to raise everyone up. In all likelihood, you’ll end up falling down to the standards that others have set.
There are outliers, but for most people, their surroundings will determine the course of their path. That’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with the type of people and places you want to be like. When the bar is set high, you get pushed up to another level.
4. People are much more likely to help, work, and interact with people they know.
People tend to show favoritism towards family and friends, especially when it comes to jobs and opportunities. In other words, nepotism exists. It has been around for the past thousand years, and it isn’t going anywhere soon.
Now, many of us would love to be recognized purely on merit. We want to believe that the best and the brightest are chosen. And yet, the system of choosing people we know has been a constant in history.
Despite whether or not we think it’s a fair system, there are a few reasons why people help their own family members and friends.
First, there’s built-in trust because we know the person’s history and abilities. Secondly, we want to maintain good relations with people we know by helping them out. And finally, people believe that giving a position of influence to a friend or family member strengthens their own standing in the long run.
5. You’re rewarded based on the end results, not your efforts.
You don’t “deserve” to be rich because you worked hard on your business. You don’t “deserve” to be promoted because you’re a good person. That’s not how things work.
You receive in proportion to what you deliver. How much value have you provided to others? If you slaved away at a venture that ultimately flopped, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you didn’t receive a profit. But if you build an enterprise that customers rely heavily on, then the revenues should reflect how much you’ve helped them.
To you, you may have poured all your energy into making something great. However, if other people don’t feel the same way, then you haven’t provided them with anything that merits compensation.
Instead of Thinking About Fairness, Think About What Actually Is
We often talk about how things “should” work. We want people to think a certain way or events to unfold in specific patterns. We build a preconception in our heads on how a perfect world should operate.
But there’s a difference between the way things should work and the way things actually work. It’s important to start accepting how things actually are, so that we can act accordingly and make better decisions.
The sooner we do that, the sooner we can get a move on what we are meant to be doing.