Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Fairness Police

Anyone who has been a manager, or the parent to more than one child, has had their turn acting as the "fairness" officer. Over many years of management and parenting, I've come to the conclusion that the concept of "fair" is perhaps our most dangerous concept. This is because "fair" depends on your perspective. "Fair" is subjective. And "fair" is a standard where humans cannot possibly measure up.

Let me just remind us all of something we've heard since childhood -- life isn't fair.

Is it fair that one person has a job and another doesn't? Is it fair that someone was born into wealth, and you weren't? Is it fair that one child gets a pink slinky, while the other has to suffer with a purple one (a current real life example here at home)? It all depends on your perspective.

These issues permeate our culture. You can see it going on in current events right now. Is it fair that half of the population pays no income tax? Is it fair that Warren Buffett pays only 17% income tax? Is it fair that some people get huge bonuses working on Wall Street even as the banking system is falling apart? Is it fair that some people can only get a temp job? Is it fair that you can get any job? Is it fair that the government had to step in and provide funds for TARP? Is it fair the government doesn't provide a free college education to everyone? Or to just citizens?

Remember -- life fundamentally isn't fair.

I submit to you that the fairness argument has no legitimate place in any of these situations. Forget about fair. Your idea of fair is different from the next person's. Fairness leads to unworkable ideas and proposals. Fairness leads to measuring your gains (or losses) against everyone else, looking for the unfavorable (unfair) comparison. Fairness seeking leads to envy, jealousy and unhappiness.

Life isn't fair.

So my proposal -- forget about fairness. Measure your life and circumstances in absolute terms. Do you have what you need? Are you happy with your choices? Can you make things better for yourself or someone you care about? If you're in good shape yourself, can you derive satisfaction from helping someone else? Continually looking for someone who's got it better, easier, etc., will just make you unhappy.

Life isn't fair, and it never will be.

So take joy in your own accomplishments. Strive to be better every day. Make a positive impact on others. Be practical. And stop wasting your time worrying about others who have more/better/easier than you.

No comments:

Post a Comment