I came across this Facebook note a couple weeks ago from Ian Brodie, a former Chief of Staff to Stephen Harper. You’ll notice it says a bunch of stuff at the end about not quoting this or re-printing it or whatnot so I’ll just summarize what he says.
His main point is about how just because Harper has continually run against poor leaders, that doesn’t make him a weak leader. Fair enough, but that also doesn’t make him a strong leader. I’d like to see how he’d do against Chretien back in the day. But that’s not the point I want to tackle.
He goes into this whole spiel about how the real difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals believe success is being lucky and conservatives believe it is achieved by working hard. If that’s the difference, I’m neither a liberal nor a conservative because the real world clearly falls between those two extremes. A Sam Harris quote I posted a couple weeks ago sums this up nicely:
Many of my critics pretend that they have been entirely self-made. They seem to feel responsible for their intellectual gifts, for their freedom from injury and disease, and for the fact that they were born at a specific moment in history. Many appear to have absolutely no awareness of how lucky one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, to not have cerebral palsy, or to not have been bankrupted in middle age by the mortal illness of a spouse.
On the health side of things, there are many ways you can be lucky or unlucky in a way that is entirely undeserved, but there are also ways you can work hard to be healthier by exercising or eating well. Health is a mixture of the cards you’re dealt and the way you play them. I don’t see how financial or career success is any different. Working hard will get you so far, but there are things that will happen that are entirely out of your hands.
I think this is one of the most fundamental misconceptions people have about what makes success: not acknowledging or even being aware of the degree to which events out of your control influence your life. I wanted to write a whole post about this but, thankfully given the free time I have these days, I don’t have to because someone else did and they a way better job than I could have done. From Namit Arora at 3 Quarks Daily:
A pivotal question in market-based societies is ‘What do we deserve?’ In other words, for our learning, natural talents, and labor, what rewards and entitlements are just? How much of what we bring home is fair or unfair, and why? To chase these questions is to be drawn into the thickets of political philosophy and theories of justice. In this short essay, inspired by American political philosopher Michael Sandel’s Justice, I’ve tried to synthesize a few thoughts on the matter by reviewing three major approaches to distributive economic justice: libertarian, meritocratic, and egalitarian, undermining en route the dominant narrative on my own well-being.
Read it and let me now if it changes how you see the world.