That’s not fair.
Life isn’t fair.
How many times have you heard these statements uttered? I was thinking that instead of trying to define an intangible, highly subjective concept such as fairness by what it is not, it might be worthwhile to take a crack at what it is.
Let’s start with the cliché of a level playing field often used to symbolize an equal starting point for anyone involved in a competition. When I used to coach soccer, our games would always take place on fields that were part of a larger park. The league would do its best to identify the best area of the park to stripe and mark off the field.
Early on, I realized that there was almost always a slope to the field. Sometimes it was a gradual, barely discernible slope and sometimes it was more like a small hill. Either way, the playing field was literally not level or even. So, I decided that we would use that to our advantage and each week I would make it a point to be the first coach to arrive for the game.
Upon arrival, I would stake out our practice area at the goal that was at the higher end of the field and that is the goal that we would be driving toward when the game started. Because teams switch sides at halftime, it also meant that we would drive toward the goal at the lower end of the field in the second half.
The first couple times I did this, I let the team know that they would be running uphill in the first half and I emphasized that if they could grab the lead or at least keep the game close in the first half, then the second half would most certainly be ours to take full advantage of because it was easier to run downhill. They soon grasped the concept and we all adapted that way of thinking without having to talk about it before each game.
I have no idea whether that strategy made a difference physically, but I know with absolute certainty that it made a difference mentally. The whole team bought into the idea that it mattered and that is what counted. Invariably, if we had a strong first half, we stomped the other team in the second half. If we had a tough first half, the team was visibly energized by the thought that the tough part was over.
Of course, we did not always win. We did, however, always create at least a slight mental advantage that put us in the best position to win. We simply took a situation that could have been construed as unfair and used it to our benefit.
So, here’s the point. There is nothing in life that equates everything for everybody other than living life itself. You are not promised a rosy future when you are born. There are no rules anywhere that mandate that you will earn the same living as the person standing next to you. You are not assured that your circumstances will be easy or that you will be surrounded by love and friendship. In fact, the second that you begin living, the exact opposite is true.
You will absolutely experience adversity. You will experience hurt and loss and frustration. At some point you will be in pain. You will be fearful. Is it fair? I don’t know, but it’s life and, in life, everyone has things to deal with that they would rather not, and everyone deals with events they would rather not experience.
What is fair is that even though you will rarely, if ever, play on a level field, you have the power to determine how you are going to play the game.
You have the ability to reason, assess, and to exercise your own logic. You have the greatest power of all, the power of choice.
You have a chance to do well, to succeed, to find your unique talent and excel regardless of how the game is being played or what the other person or team is doing.
If you have that chance, that sounds fair to me.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.