Business Insider published a list of 9 unfair advantages that help people get ahead.
I have benefited from five of them, though I would argue that some are not as clear as others, and there are a couple missing from the list.
1. A need for little sleep: While it’s true that I sleep less than most people, I also am quick to point out that I maximize my sleep as well, whereas many people waste time and do a terrible job sleeping.
3. The inclination for optimism: While I have been called a curmudgeon on many occasions (and fairly so), I am actually more inclined to optimism. I tend to focus on progress made. I believe that small steps yield enormous results. I say yes to every opportunity, regardless of how ill equipped I may be to follow through on the yes. I believe in my heart that things tend to turn out well over time if you set goals, apply yourself, and work like hell.
This sense of optimism is bolstered by my perspective. When you’ve been brought back to life via CPR twice, robbed at gunpoint, homeless, and been arrested and tried for a crime you didn’t commit, the problems that stymy so many people seem meager in comparison.
“If I’m not dead or in jail, and I have a roof over my head, things can’t be that bad.”
6. The ability to resist temptation: My ability to delay gratification is powerful. This week I replaced my 2002 rear projection behemoth of a television with a $200 hand-me-down flat screen. In the same week, I finally replaced my iPhone 4 with an iPhone 6. Both of these devices should’ve been replaced years ago, but both were still working fine, despite their lack of modern-day amenities, and I have never been a person who needs the latest or greatest of anything.
I am exceptionally patient.
Except when ice cream is involved.
7. Charm: I denied possessing this unfair advantage, but in discussing this list with friends and family, it has been argued that I possess a nontraditional brand of charm that causes people to like me despite their natural instincts.
It’s true that I have many friends, but it’s also true that when you hate me, you really, really hate me. So I’m not sure.
I’m also not sure if this claim of a nontraditional brand of charm is simply an attempt at a backhanded compliment or a passive-aggressive insult.
9. The ability to selectively ignore people’s feelings: Business Insider explains that those who can ignore someone's feelings when competing against them for a promotion or in a negotiation have a better chance of doing what is best for achieving their goal.
Unfortunately, I can be ruthless when it comes to competition, and I’m quite capable of ignoring someone’s feelings in order to win. It’s not my finest quality, but I can’t deny it.
I think this tendency is also an asset when dealing with my children and my students. There are times when consequences, struggle, and even suffering are critical to a young person’s growth, but all too often parents and teachers are unable to watch children struggle because of the anger and sadness that it engenders in the child.
It’s not easy to listen to your child “cry it out” as she is learning to sleep through the night, but I did it because I knew how important it was for my children to learn to be effective sleepers. It’s hard to impose a consequence on a student that you know how difficult it will be for him or her, but better to stand firm and teach the lesson than allowing a child to believe that this world is without consequences for his or her actions.
My ability to ignore their feelings, at least to a degree, and rationalize the long term benefits over momentary relief has been helpful in this regard.
In case you didn’t read the Business Insider’s piece, the unfair advantages that I lack are nurturing parents, a photographic memory, physical attractiveness, and connections. My wife has argued that I have an excellent memory, but being able to remember events from your childhood is not the kind of memory that will get me ahead in life.
Two other advantages that I would add to the list (and that I also lack are):
- Born into wealth
- A successful family business
The first almost always allows a person to graduate from college debt free and with a certain amount of capital and security, and the second almost always guarantees a job if needed. Both provide a safety net that only people who have lived without a safety net from an early age can truly appreciate.
Another advantage that I would add to the list is:
- Little concern for the what others – and especially strangers – think of you.
This is a quality that I possess in droves. While I would love for everyone in the world to adore me – and they really should – it’s my disregard for what others think about me that helps me to ignore the clutter that concerns so many people and find the time to excel.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t care if my readers enjoy my books. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want my students or my colleagues to respect me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want my friends to love me.
It means that I’m able to go out into the world with the confidence that if I am being myself and believe in the decisions that I have made, I don’t care all that much about what others – and especially strangers – think of me. I don’t worry about the state or quality of my wardrobe or hair or car. I don’t spend time or effort trying to keep up with the Joneses. I’m not concerned about what audiences will think about me after I’ve told a mortifying story on stage as long as I’m speaking the truth.
I dare the world to like me for who I am.
This quality has certainly caused me trouble in the past, but more often than not, it has served me very well.