Last week, Michael Phelps overcame personal demons and fierce world class competition to win Olympic gold. For a split second, one of his rivals, South Africa’s Chad le Clos, turned his head to check how far ahead Phelps was. That inspired a flurry of internet posts of the above photo and the quote: “Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners”.
The Olympics reminds us how much we admire and value achievement, dedication to victory and everything it takes to succeed in any endeavor pursued, whether it be athletic, business, academic, even spiritual or philosophical wisdom. Accomplishment makes a person exceptional. That stands in blunt contrast to worldviews that seek to impose an egalitarian order. I say impose because it’s not natural. Some humans are more talented, work much harder or are simply blessed with fortunate circumstances. It’s wrong to attack them or to confiscate their resources for the “betterment” of society.
Clearly, all humans are equal on a fundamental human worth and civil rights standpoint; but not beyond that rudimentary level. Ideologies that try to impose social justice by attacking “winners” are immoral. How would you like to be assailed by Government because you’re successful? It’s also misguided on two other aspects: 1) Dragging everyone down to the lowest common denominator is counterproductive to humanity’s will to win and achieve as embodied by the Olympics; and 2) Jealousy and envy are negative emotions, stirring up thoughts of insecurity, fear, concern – anxiety over losing or missing out on something. Those are bad sentiments. Feelings of resentment, inadequacy and helplessness should not be emphasized in a healthy person or in a healthy society. It’s folly to believe that everyone is or should be exactly the same. We humans are naturally unequal and it’s against nature and moral justice to try and force equality on human economic, mental or physical affairs. Equality of opportunity – yes. Equality of outcomes – NO! In the satirical novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), the Dodo bird tells Allice “Everybody has won and all must have prizes”.
We don’t live in Alice’s Wonderland. Life is hard work and it’s competitive. There are no and there should be no “participation prizes” or politically coerced economic egalitarianism.
Harrison Bergeron (1961) is a Kurt Vonnegut science fiction story taking egalitarianism to its logical extreme. A ‘Handicapper General’ is appointed by Government to enforce laws ensuring that no one is better than anyone else. People are forced to wear “handicaps” – masks for those who are too beautiful, radios blaring distracting noise inside the ears of intelligent people, and heavy weights for the strong or athletic. That’s as goofy as the 1980s rock band Rush’s song The Trees, with a lyrical short story of a conflict between personified maple and oak trees. The oaks are taller and grab up all the sunlight, so the maples pass laws keeping all the trees equal by chopping or sawing down the tall oaks. The notion that the strong or gifted should be cut down so that the weak or unfortunate will be better off is patently ridiculous.
Your Estate Planning War Chest embodies exceptionalism. Resenting the wealthy and successful is for losers. Don’t begrudge winners – be one.