Winning Not Whining

The New York Times published letters today in response to an article about the increasing investments in first class amenities by the airlines. One of the letters was mine, in which I commented on my recent trip to Australia and back in first class on a Qantas A380, which enabled me to “hit the ground running” for my speaking commitment when I arrived and to return home refreshed.

The other letters were about an ever-increasing movement to strike at “them” (anyone who is better off through talent and hard work). One observation was that first class seats shouldn’t be a tax deduction and another that coach seating is suffering because the money is being spent up front.

First, redistribution of wealth; then, redistribution of seats!!

I’ve met people throughout my career who discovered what would be important to them in life and strove to achieve and obtain it. I’ve met others who simply bemoaned the fact that people had things that they don’t and resorted to perpetual victimhood.

TIAABB: There is always a bigger boat. I don’t need the biggest, and couldn’t afford it, anyway. But I know how I want to live, travel, contribute, drive, and recreate. And I strive to fulfill those aspirations by innovating, marketing, and providing more quality and better experiences than others. I take prudent risk as an entrepreneur, and don’t delude myself into thinking that a corporate job with less risk would reward me similarly. I pursued my education, and read every word on every page in every book. I don’t plan to “retire,” though I take care to provide for long-term financial needs independent of government safety nets.

Most of all, I don’t begrudge anyone who has more than I. Good for them. If I want what they have, I’ll work to get it, but I won’t demand that they give me part of what they have because of some kind of crazed egalitarianism. I went to public schools through my first masters degree, paid for by government loans which I repaid, scholarships, and part-time jobs. It was a good feeling. I didn’t get to use “Daddy’s money” because there was none!

People have different levels of need. A modest life can be a life well-lived if that’s your goal. An affluent life can be a life well-lived if that’s your goal. But to resent another’s life because it contains what you wish you had but don’t is a wasted life.

Once the demands are accepted that everyone be treated exactly alike—despite talent, achievement, and work ethic—we no longer stimulate competition, innovation, and growth. (I remember when you had to be invited into airline clubs, but then a lawsuit made sure that you only had to write a check—which makes most of them too crowded and ineffective for work or relaxation. Now I have to watch bores clip their toenails and shout into cell phones.) What’s next? Does everyone have the right to first class travel, a Mercedes, private schools, and a yacht? Apparently, everyone has the right to their own reality show, since I’ve never heard of most of those people and they have no discernable talent.

Perhaps the opportunity to fly over oceans or across the country in relatively little time, in safety and comparative comfort, is a blessing in itself? Or is the lure behind those curtains up front an irresistible outrage because you’re not the one sipping champagne?

Everyone deserves an equal start and a level playing field, and where those don’t exist, protests are on target, though too often ignored or blunted (the sad state of inner city public education at primary and secondary levels being just one example that is undermining the country). But no one is guaranteed an equal finish or reward, deluded attempts to “foster” self-esteem notwithstanding.

The rewards seem to me to be a question of the pursuit of the American Dream, and that’s always been about work and talent, winning and not whining.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

7 thoughts on “Winning Not Whining

  1. Alan,
    I like this post because it describes the American dream, we each have the opportunity to improve our lot in life by hard work and applying our God given talents. We have the right to the equal opportunities, not equal results.

    Jack McGowan

  2. I like reading your posts, but you are way off here.

    I don’t have any problem with someone rich paying for their ticket through hard work. What I do have a problem with is someone like a corrupt EU official or banker paying for their ticket. Where has the money from the MF Global failure gone? I can bet you some it was spent on some first class tickets for Jon Corzine.

    The system is corrupt, that’s what people are protesting.

  3. Mark, I guess I have t he right on occasion to be “way off”!!

    I would agree that corruption is to be stamped out, no matter where it is, including people who fake disability claims, and bankers who give out unfair largesse. The protests, however, appear to me to be unfocused, embrace too many fringe fanatics, and have no rallying point. The insistence on broad labels such as “Wall Street” invokes the worst kind of class warfare, often engaged in by the present administration, which seems to imply that our troubles are over if we just “get the rich.” That’s a notion so crass and stupid that I scarcely know where to begin with it.

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