Getting ahead vs. doing well
Two guys are running away from an angry grizzly when one stops to take off his hiking boots and switches to running shoes. "What are you doing," the other guy yells, "those aren't going to allow you to outrun the bear…" The other guy smiles and points out that he doesn't have to outrun the bear, just his friend.
I was at a fancy event the other day, and it was held in three different rooms. All of these fancy folks were there, in fancy outfits, etc. More than once, I heard people ask, "is this room the best room?" It wasn't enough that the event was fancy. It mattered that the room assigned was the fanciest one.
Class rank. The most expensive car. A 'better' neighborhood. A faster marathon. More online followers. A bigger pool…
One unspoken objection to raising the minimum wage is that people, other people, those people, will get paid a little more. Which might make getting ahead a little harder. When we raise the bottom, this thinking goes, it gets harder to move to the top.
After a company in Seattle famously raised its lowest wage tier to $70,000, two people (who got paid more than most of the other workers) quit, because they felt it wasn't fair that people who weren't as productive as they were were going to get a raise.
They quit a good job, a job they liked, because other people got a raise.
This is our culture of 'getting ahead' talking.
This is the thinking that, "First class isn't better because of the seats, it's better because it's not coach." (Several airlines have tried to launch all-first-class seating, and all of them have stumbled.)
There are two challenges here. The first is that in a connection economy, the idea that others need to be in coach for you to be in first doesn't scale very well. When we share an idea or an experience, we both have it, it doesn't diminish the value, it increases it.
And the second, in the words of moms everywhere: Life is more fun when you don't compare. It's possible to create dignity and be successful at the same time. (In fact, that might be the only way to be truly successful.)