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10 Things in Life That Aren’t Fair — and What to Do About Them (Part 2 of 2)

10 Things in Life That Aren’t Fair — and What to Do About Them (Part 2 of 2)

10 Things in Life That Aren't Fair - and What to Do About Them

    “If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.”– Johnny Carson

    In Part 1 of this series, I discussed some of the ways that life deals us a bum hand, and some of the ways we can deal with that. In this post, I continue the list, starting with some oddnesses about factors that seem to play as big a role, if not even bigger, as individual merit in determining or life success.

    1. Most CEOs are tall.

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    90% of Fortune 500 CEOs are of above average height. Some 30% – compared with only about 4% in the general population – are 6’2” or taller. Since it’s highly unlikely that a random sample of 500 people would show this great a deviation from the national average, the only explanation is that tallness conveys qualities that are seen as “executive material” even when the tall person might lack those qualities or be merely humdrum. By extension, shorter-than-average people with incredible leadership skills might be passed over in exchange for less-stunning but taller candidates.

    What to do about it: This is even tougher than appearance issues, since there’s no good way to increase your height (you can wear lifts, I suppose, but will always risk exposure). Again, confidence is key, and the handful of shorter-than-average CEOs out there (less that 3%) are distinguished by their confidence. Study the behavior of shorter CEOs like Jack Welch or Barry Diller. Think “tall” – be seen, make yourself heard. Shorter CEOs also tend to be those that work their way up in a company, so commit for the long haul; taller CEOs come from executive job searches, where they have less personal history and more “flash” in play. And, of course, you can become an entrepreneur – hopefully you wouldn’t replace yourself with someone taller!

    2. People buy brands.

    Brand loyalty is one of the major factors influencing people’s buying decisions. Part of this is “following the leader” – if I know the brand, it must be because people are talking about it, thus it must be good.” Part of it is packaging design. And part of it is comfort in previous knowledge – the brand you know and kind of like is a better bet than the one off-brand you don’t know and might love or hate.

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    What to do about it: Commit yourself to trying something new every so often – maybe every month, replace a favorite brand with a brand you don’t know and see how you like it. You pay a huge premium for branding, often at the expense of quality, so it’s worth it to shed a brand here and there. For durable purchases (as opposed to consumables like food), develop a systematic way of comparing your brand against the competitors – Apple (or Microsoft), Ford (or Chevy), Nike (or Adidas) might not always be the best way for you to go, even if you’ve had good experiences with them in the past.

    3. People do, in fact, judge books by their covers.

    It’s a publishing industry fact – book covers are what grab and hold attention long enough for a purchase to be made. If it were something about the content, you’d expect authors to have some say, but often they have no contractual right to even see the cover before it’s published, let alone approve or disapprove. (More often, authors can disapprove, but publishers reserve – and usually exercise – the right to ignore the author’s disapproval).

    What to do about it: If you’re in the authoring game, let book cover designers do what they do best – they know their domain far better than you do. For buyers, check reviews – lots of handheld software allows you to access Amazon and other sites with reviews while you’re standing in the store. Also, get used to using your library – most libraries have online reservation systems that are nearly as effective as Amazon at getting your chosen books to you in a couple of days. That way, you minimize the risk of blowing money on books that turn out to be less than the cover promises.

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    4. Most people would rather not choose at all than choose between two equally good options.

    This is decision paralysis of a sort – when presented with two equally good options, we freeze. Two options where one is clearly better we handle fine, but not where they are equally good, or for that matter, difficult to compare on the same criteria (the apples v. oranges dilemma).

    What to do about it: The standard response to difficult decisions is to list pros and cons, but where things are more or less equal, or where pros and cons aren’t comparable, this isn’t helpful. A better option is to re-frame the decision – the think out a way of looking at the choices in a way that is comparable. One way to do that is to look at goals and objectives – what is the goal you hope to meet by choosing one or the other, and which one is better suited to that goal? This moves you past the immediate characteristics of the objects under consideration – that is, one tastes delicious, the other offers two hours of solid motion picture excitement, so if your goal is to have fun for as long as possible, you might spend your $10 on the movie and not the super-sundae.

    5. The best ideas often get lost for lack of funding, competence, or experience.

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    The people who think up brilliant ideas aren’t always in a position to make them happen. They lack sales skills, people skills, marketing skills, or, quite often, just enough money to bring an innovation to market or the mainstream. Or a start-up gets bought out by a monopolistic corporation simply in order to quash their project.

    What to do about it: If you’re in a position to do so, seek out start-ups without the skills to succeed and support them however you can. If you’re an idea person yourself, seek out people with the skills you lack – do not could on your idea to succeed for its greatness.

    Well, that about covers it – as before, I’d love to hear what you think is unfair about life, and how you’ve dealt with unfairness in your own life. Let us know about it in the comments.

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    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

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    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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