What is the first part of the lesson? It is one that will free them from many ills such as, dependence, regret, self-pity, misunderstanding, anger, and resentment. It is something kids are taught to be when they are young because it is an admirable trait. But, unfortunately, the lesson doesn’t always hold true in the real world. It’s not that it doesn’t happen frequently, but it can never be assumed or to be counted on. So what is the lesson?
I. Life is not fair and one should accept that reality.
It is true. Life is not fair as we all have experienced. There are many examples of it. Some people have fancy homes and cars while others live on the edge of hunger. That doesn’t seem fair at all. Some people are born into money, some are born with lots of intelligence, and others just seem to have more energy and better instincts. None of those things are fair, but you know what? That’s just too bad and we must get over it!
II. The second part the lesson: "Success is about leverage”!
Kids need to know that in the adult world, decisions are not always made according to fairness. They are more frequently made based on leverage. For instance, educated or skilled people have the leverage of better performance than those who don’t. They are the ones who are awarded scholarships, better jobs, and more money if they use that leverage!
Yes, you say, but there are some not-so-educated and not-so-hard working people that have more money. True, and that may not be fair. But surely they have leverage in some way that allows them to have more money. Any person born into a western culture like the United States has much more leverage than a very hard-working person born in the slums of Calcutta. The leverage in this example is birthplace. Again we see that it isn’t fair that some people are born less fortunate or in the wrong location. But life is not fair and likely never will be.
Note: Be as fair and ethical as possible, but don’t depend on it coming back to you!
Anyone can come up with examples they think are unfair. But in every one of those examples, there will be a situation where leverage has come into play. I thought that it was unfair when I went to college, that I was a commuter student without dorm friends who, I discovered later, helped each other study and had access to all kinds of old tests, etc. They had the leverage of instant help from smarter people who lived across the hall. It wasn’t fair to me, who studied alone. But I didn’t have the leverage of living in the dorms or knowing how things really worked in college. Yes, being naive is on me!
Note: There is NO leverage in being naive!
Here is another example. Should there be a minimum wage and is it fair to have one? Most people who have minimum wage jobs do not have the leverage of an education or special skills. People who hire them have the leverage of a large pool of non-skilled workers from which to choose so they can pay as little as it takes to get the employees they need. You can say it is unfair to these workers who may work very hard for their wages, but the employer has the leverage.
The only leverage unskilled workers may have is when the public, via their government representatives, has sympathy towards them. If deemed by law, these unskilled workers must be paid more than the market alone allows. This becomes fairer for the workers but unfair to the employers who now have to pay an artificially higher amount than the market. It may also be unfair for those that will not be hired because of the higher cost of labor. A majority in a democracy will almost always have leverage.
My wife was a teacher, my son is a soldier, one of my daughters is a college counselor and my other daughter is an occupational therapist. None of them make even one percent of the salary of an average major league baseball player. I think we now know that this is about the leverage of their talent, not the fairness of what occupations are most important in society. We accept that. And I do enjoy baseball even though they are overpaid in the minds of many. It’s not fair that some people have unique leverage that you could never attain, but you can’t wallow in that.
Note: There is no leverage in wallowing!
If your children can understand leverage and the ethical use of leverage, they have a tremendous head start over their peers! Being young, in itself, is a great leverage tool! Young people have time to earn, learn, and implement the things that will become leverage for them later in life, without ever depending on fairness or luck! Those people with this attitude are the ones who seem to succeed and be the most “lucky”.
Note: Understanding leverage IS leverage!
Leverage that doesn’t exist by chance can be built. Working hard in school to have good grades creates leverage over others to get into college or even a scholarship. The education attained via scholarship provides leverage over those without an education to get the best jobs. The money you earn is generally higher because fewer people have your education or skill. We all know that having money is classic leverage.
Note: There is tremendous leverage in a good attitude, a good education, a good work ethic, and a good understanding of how the world operates.
Like intelligence, a special talent, or being born into a well-to-do family, sometimes leverage is given to you. That is a gift. But leverage can be wasted if not valued. Also, leverage given to you can be taken away. It is the worst kind of leverage because you are counting on others and not yourself.
If your older children can grasp the notion that building leverage is to their advantage, that complaining about life not being fair is a waste of time, then you have given them a tremendous advantage in life. The leverage of understanding life, of having a work ethic, and knowing their success is basically up to them, could be the greatest lesson of their life!
Note: Having leverage is not always fair, and being fair does not always create leverage.