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Justice and dignity, too often in short supply

[From two years ago, even more relevant right now]

You will never regret offering dignity to others.

We rarely get into trouble because we overdo our sense of justice and fairness. Not just us, but where we work, the others we influence. Organizations and governments are nothing but people, and every day we get a chance to become better versions of ourselves.

And yet… in the moments when we think no one is looking, when the stakes are high, we often forget. It’s worth remembering that justice and dignity aren’t only offered on behalf of others.

Offering people the chance to be treated the way we’d like to be treated benefits us too. It goes around.

The false scarcity is this: we believe that shutting out others, keeping them out of our orbit, our country, our competitive space—that this somehow makes things more easier for us.

And this used to be true. When there are 10 jobs for dockworkers, having 30 dockworkers in the hall doesn’t make it better for anyone but the bosses.

But today, value isn’t created by filling a slot, it’s created by connection. By the combinations created by people. By the magic that comes from diversity of opinion, background and motivation. Connection leads to ideas, to solutions, to breakthroughs.

The false scarcity stated as, “I don’t have enough, you can’t have any,” is more truthfully, “together, we can create something better.”

We know it’s the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing.

Consider a gap year

Millions of college-age students have to make a difficult decision soon. Spending all that money and time has always been a significant choice, but now it’s more fraught. The accredited institutions that are now suddenly offering students an online education simply haven’t committed the time or effort to actually be good at it. They’re offering something without effectiveness, polish or insight.

The alternative is a gap year. Not just for college students, but for high school students and even adults.

The gap year has a terrible name. It implies that the year is somehow wasted, that it’s a gap snuck in between the stuff that you’re supposed to be doing.

But of course, it’s not that at all. Living is what we’re supposed to be doing. Contributing. Learning. Figuring out how to make things better. The stuff we’re not doing when we’re simply complying–that’s the point. Our compliance years are the gap.

And we should commit our time with intention.

If you can afford it, this is a powerful moment to invest in the next chapter of who you are and what you will become.

For an adult, that’s an expensive commitment. To walk away from your freelance path or your job search to dig in to become the leader and connector and expert you’ve always hoped to become.

But for a student, it’s actually a bargain. It’s a chance to step off the carousel of conformity and lockstep obedience and actually commit to a path of your own choosing. Keep your tuition money and put it to work for you, not for some football team.

A month, a semester, or an entire year. A chance to create a change, to make an impact, to cause a shift in your posture that you’ll have forever.

We’ve become ever more suspicious of the bargain that the industrial world has been offering: compliance in exchange for stability. The alternative is to own your path and to do the incredibly difficult work of choosing with intent and then sticking with it.

The discomfort people feel when they consider a gap year is precisely why we ought to spend more time considering it.