“It’s not fair”

The Olympics are only a few days away. For some this will induce a sigh of despair, for others a sense of excitement. For the many, many competitors this is their moment to compete on the world’s biggest stage and potentially to shine.  And for those that perform above and beyond anyone else, the ultimate prize, the medal, the media spotlight and the adulation of the watching crowds.

People like to see people win at sport.

People hate to see people win in life.

When we see a sportsman or woman stand on the podium, taking the ultimate prize, we talk about the hours of commitment, the sacrifices, the hard work and the talent. Yet when we see someone doing well in life, we talk about the fact that they must have got there by screwing others, the injustice, the fact that they are a “fat cat”.

I know life isn’t a level playing field. But neither is sport.

I can’t win the 100 meters final at the Olympics, I’m not going to score the winning goal in the FA cup final, and I’m not even going to get around the park in as quick a time as many. Does that make it unfair?

Is it unfair that Usain Bolt can run faster than me and therefore gets a goal medal and millions of dollars worth of endorsements?

Is it unfair that Didier Drogba scored in the final of both the FA Cup and the Champions League and secured a big money move to a club in China?

Is it unfair that you can run around the park quicker than me and therefore get to the pub first?

Next time you’re thinking about the guy with a bigger house, the girl who got the promotion ahead of you, or reading the reports about somebody else’s bonus, remember this: it isn’t unfair, they’re just doing better than you.

Work hard, do your best, fulfil your potential and your talent and stop looking on with envy at others. Whatever rewards that brings, if you’ve done your best that is all that matters. Respect the success of others, be gracious and, for the love of God, stop bleating on.


  1. We hate it when our friends become successful … and it’s even worse if their northern

  2. Meg Peppin · July 16, 2012

    Yay. The road to misery is to compare, judge, assess yourself against others and view difference as deficit/short fall. Healthy benchmarking and using those benchmarks to raise your aspirations and to see how well you can do compared to what you previously did; well, then that can be quite exciting. Maybe I’ll never run as fast as possibly anyone else, but if I can run, when I couldn’t, that feels quite good.

    • Neil · July 16, 2012

      Raise your aspirations and see how well you can do – that is exactly it. Nail on head!

  3. blueskypr · July 16, 2012

    You are right …but ….there are a lot of investment bankers who are talentless twats who have more money and bigger houses. But I am content at not being a twat:)

    • Neil · July 16, 2012

      Then go be an investment banker and show them what you can do?

  4. Doug Shaw · July 16, 2012

    Good morning. I’m delighted that you’re finally facing your running round the park pub demons. And on the bright side, thou shalt never have to get the first round in.

    • Neil · July 16, 2012

      I ALWAYS seem to get the first round in! 🙂

  5. Gareth Jones · July 16, 2012

    Nice one! Keeping up with the Jones’ seems to have become a national sport in itself and as Megan says, its the road to misery.

    However, it’s not quite all as clear cut as you make out. If only the working world was as level a playing field as the world of sport (Did you see what I did there?!)

    At least the ‘twats’ are getting easier to spot and their shenanigans more transparent.

    • Neil · July 16, 2012

      I’m not sure the world of sport is any less “fair” than the world of work….but I get your point!

    • nalexandrou · July 18, 2012

      I was going to comment along the same lines as Gareth… In business there are far too many attributes such as gender, class, personality, who you know etc. That can sometimes determine why one is promoted over another. I do think luck has a large part to play as well as being in the right place at the right time.

      But yes, I’ve met several green-eyed monsters – is it in our British nature to envy others? In Cyprus people like to show off their successes and it’s celebrated. In Poland, an ex-communist nation, successful people aren’t trusted (must be mafia) and excessive show of wealth is frowned upon. This is of course in my own experience…

      A very interesting post Neil, you’ve got us all thinking!

  6. Bina Briggs · July 16, 2012

    Is it a cultural thing perhaps? In America, people applaud others winning in their life, their business and same again in India, however, often that doesn’t seem to be the case here in the UK.

    I love to see people succeed, though sometimes, it’s hard to see how some people achieved whatever success they’ve achieved. Perhaps it’s their persona that’s making people behave less graciously towards them?

    Having been round the block from having a good living in Uganda to turning up in the UK with a suitcase, I have worked hard in the UK to get a good living again, I admire anyone who has had success in their life and that very much includes you! x

    • Doug Shaw · July 16, 2012

      Like it Bina 🙂

    • Neil · July 16, 2012

      I love this comment Bina. I hope I’m not crossing a line here, but I sometimes think “migrant labour” brings with it a sense of purpose that doesn’t exist in the status quo. And I completely agree that it is a cultural thing.

  7. Doug Shaw · July 16, 2012

    Neil – you say people with a bigger house and a bigger bonus are ‘doing better’. I disagree, let me take my family as an example. I haven’t earned a bonus for over five years. Our house is big enough. We have enough money. We have time for each other, love for each other and good honest fun with and for each other. We do interesting work, meet interesting people and go to interesting places. I feel very fortunate and incredibly well off all round, and I think (and hope!) Carole and Keira feel similarly. Cheers – Doug

    • Neil · July 16, 2012

      Thanks for commenting (again) Doug! I’m not sure I did say that, but I take your point. The thing is, it is about aspiration and it is about envy. Set your own goals, focus on what you want to do and go hell for leather to achieve them. I was focussing this on a corporate scenario, but I think it applies across the board. I chose a corporate career and I take the ups and downs that come with that. I don’t feel envious of your freedom, I don’t feel envious of teachers’ holidays, or nurses’ pensions. We each choose our path in life and we should focus on that, not bitching about other people.

      In my humble opinion!

      You big digital hippy….. 🙂

  8. Henry · July 18, 2012

    Excellent post Neil.

    Life isn’t fair.

    But although in the main I agree that people are inclined to treat the success of others with an internal allocation of fairness or unfairness, I must also say that I have genuinely been moved by how people will also help you win. Never more so than when you have a dream and genuinely communicate your passion for that. It’s magnetic. People can’t resist moving towards it.

    • Neil · September 24, 2012

      There is something about how well you know a person isn’t there? Much easier to project unfairness on someone we don’t really know. Or is that me?

  9. C. K. Buckland · August 15, 2012

    I would disagree with this to some extent. I admit there is some benefit (however idealistic) to see other peoples’ achievements as entirely self-earned, and likewise accept that what you have achieved is a direct result of your efforts and your efforts alone. Yet,  I can’t help but think that it is a somewhat two dimensional world-view. For in that same world, you could argue that if two people were identical in every way (appearance, intelligence, physical abilities, etc)  yet were brought up by different people in different places,  they would then end up with exactly the same achievements. But that would not happen!

    What you do in your life up to a point is decided consciously or unconsciously by your parents (for example I would have made a good pianist had I started lessons earlier on, but my father invested his efforts in sending me to the most masculine of clubs he could think of). Also, the school you go to, and thus the education you recieve is dependant on where you live, and the Univeristy the grades you get. Then once out of education the jobs you get are often, but not always, highly influenced by the people you know – which again depends on your family, friends, peers and colleagues. And so if all of this, which on the most part is out of your control, can dictate the way your life runs out (even if you made the very best of each situation) then how can that be anything but unfair?

    In summary, I agree that to moan that you didn’t do so well with the cards in your hands as someone else with the same hand is pointless and an excuse. But to begrudge the hand you were dealt in the first place, while it is equally as pointless, is definitely more understandable.

    • Neil · September 24, 2012

      Thanks for the great comment. Whether we get dealt a good or bad hand – for the vast majority of people – is just persepctive.

  10. Stephen O'Donnell (@stephenodonn) · September 14, 2012

    I disagree, and believe that this is a media illusion, which has come to be believed, merely because it appears plausible. For the past 30 years at least, we have been told that whilst the American culture is to applaud success, the British public endeavour only to find fault in it. It says that we are more cynical, and don’t believe anyone could be more successful than ourselves by playing fairly. I’ll concede that it could be an English thing, but I don’t think so. In the 50’s and 60’s we were a smaller-minded nation, not very well traveled, educated or worldly wise. Much of the country, working and middle class, were taught to “know our place” and be suspicious of those who didn’t. I firmly believe that since the 70’s we have definitely moved on from that mindset.

    Yes, people do of course get jealous and resentful, but for the most part they are aware of this, and still wish others well in their success. In my experience of people at all levels, the response to someone else’s success is “Good for you, congratulations and well done”. There may well be a side-order of “Jammy B*****d!” thrown in for good measure, but its rarely a big deal.

    I think the British are much more supportive of success than the newspapers will have us believe. They say we like to build people up in our estimation, only to enjoy tearing them down. This is untrue – that’s what the media like to do, as it sells more papers.

    • Neil · September 24, 2012

      I reckon if you were to hang around any workplace of size for long enough, you’d hear people mopaning about other people doing well.

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