This is the first part of a series exploring how best to engage in a world with unequal resources. More articles to follow.
Inequality and Me
For a few months now I’ve been toying with a concept that will hopefully evolve into something substantial in the coming weeks. It is predicated on the idea that inequality is part of the fundamental nature of the world. This can be a controversial assertion to be sure, as the word inequality is often associated with socio-economic inequality and is cited to promote mechanisms for enforcing equity, or the arbitrary equalization of peoples. Inequality, in this context, is a societally enforced evil rather than a constant theme that is born out in every aspect of nature.
But this is a narrow view of inequality that lends itself to a defeatist lifestyle where everyone else’s advantage is an evil that must be stopped and every disadvantage is an injustice that must be remedied. The reality is, all things are different. All people are unequal. Not just in terms of money, but in terms of time, intelligence, personality, family, friends, mentors, strength, health, culture, values, education, skills, etc. Pick any variable that contributes to success and you will inevitably find inequality. Now you can analyze these variables according to ethnic groups, age groups, economic class, nationality, location, gender, or any other method of dividing humans to promote an agenda or champion a cause, but that is not the scope of this series.
I am interested in the individual. I am interested in the person that sees inequality all around them and asks the honest question to themselves:
“How am I to properly navigate this world in order to ultimately be successful?”
Maneuver Warfare vs. War of Attrition
Many historians agree that until recently, war was primarily waged through means of attriting personnel and materiel. Once an enemy’s armies were destroyed, then and only then could victory be declared. From ancient Rome, to the wars of the Middle Ages, to the Civil War, to World War I, massive armies would line up for slaughter on the battlefield pitting their strength against their enemy’s strength.
It was only recently that another doctrine of warfare began to really be articulated. A doctrine that doesn’t look at military personnel and materiel as the only elements of waging successful warfare. A doctrine that pits strength against weakness by identifying vulnerabilities in the enemy. A doctrine known as Maneuver Warfare.
Commanders took stock of their own strengths and weaknesses in areas of terrain, weather, troops and fire support available, morale, intelligence, logistical capabilities, lines of communication etc. and attempted to mass their strength against their enemy’s weakness. Rather than attacking surfaces, or hard points where the enemy had the advantage, they sought gaps, places where their advantage could be disproportionately effective.
Do I face an armored regiment on the battlefield or do I destroy their fuel farms rendering them incapacitated?
Do I fight this battalion of infantry when they have the high ground, or do I attack their supply train and cut them off from food and water until they are malnourished and their morale is low?
Do I attempt to take all the Chess pieces off the board piece for piece, or do I trap the King with my bishop and pawn?
Life, just like war, can be seen as a struggle. The idea of maneuver warfare vs. attrition is useful because it informs the ideas I’ve been wrestling with on inequality. Many of our precious resources are stubbornly wasted on hard surfaces. Part of the problem is money is such a permeating variable that it’s often mistaken as the only resource, similar to troops and materiel in attrition warfare. So much so that many people believe that money by itself will solve their problems. A cursory glance at the fate of lottery winners says otherwise… While money is a powerful resource, no doubt, it is by no means the only resource.
Resources have been dealt to each and every one of us unequally. Whether it be in type/degree of intelligence, economic resources, social resources, familial resources, we all drew a different lot. But the beauty of the situation is that we can all manipulate what we have to get what we don’t have, depending on our goals. The student who is struggling in Math can sacrifice TIME and possibly MONEY to pursue proficiency in Math, or he can reorient towards creative writing where he excels because of his specific INTELLIGENCE. The overworked waitress can sacrifice MONEY for TIME to pursue meaningful connections with FAMILY, FRIENDS, or MENTORS that may in turn yield opportunities for a more balanced career. Rather than engaging in attrition warfare by fighting with a singular variable such as money or intelligence, we can fight a maneuver war utilizing a multi-variant approach.
This brings me to what I’m going to term as Leverage. Gaining Leverage is taking the tactical self-evaluation of your resources, identifying strengths and weakness, and exploiting your strengths to either minimize or shore up your weaknesses. Rather than complaining about how the world is, you look for gaps, or weaknesses, in the structure of the world to exploit. This is the essence of charting out your life like a maneuver warfare commander. My goal is to take a holistic approach to inequality by identifying some of the major unequally distributed resources for success and how they can be utilized, manipulated, or exploited. Always keeping in mind:
- I am writing for the individual, not the group. I am not concerned with which group is more likely to do what or numbers shuffled around to prove a point. And…
- I can not in a million years address every complexity, exception, and nuance. This is being presented as a helpful framework for self-reflective thinking, not a rule book.
Going forward through this series in the coming weeks, I want to provide a unique lens for viewing the world. My hope is that every reader will be able to take at least a small nugget that will enrich their lives.
Continue to Part 2: Leveraging Time