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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 January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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