Life is not Fair
Excerpt from the future book “Leadership in Black and White”
The harsh reality of “life is not fair” has been the Achilles heel of many leaders. For some leaders it eats away at their very soul. On Wednesday June 2, 2010 there was a Major League Baseball game played between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. A twenty-eight year old right-handed pitcher from Venezuela named Armando Antonio Galarraga pitched a complete game for Detroit allowing only one hit on the night and walking none. This game may sound relatively insignificant but for two people in that game it was definitely something they will remember for the rest of their lives.
With two outs in the ninth inning Galarraga had pitched a perfect game: no runs, no hits, no walks and no errors. Jason Donald of Cleveland hit a ground ball to first baseman Miguel Cabrera who tossed the ball back to Galarraga who was covering first base. The first base umpire Jim Joyce, one of the most respected umpire’s in the Major Leagues, emphatically yelled, “Safe!” That ended the perfect game and a chance for Galarraga to become a part of baseball history. Galarraga grinned, returned to the mound and proceeded to get the next batter out for a very respectable one hit shut-out.
I watched the replay of Donald’s infield hit over and over. Each time I hoped the outcome would be different. Sadly, the replay clearly showed that Donald should have been called out and that the umpire Joyce had missed the call. Joyce’s mistake cost Galarraga his chance at baseball immortality.
Unlike most baseball fans who were both enraged and appalled at the egregious blunder by the umpire, my heart went out to him. I cringed each time I watched the replay. I hated that it could not be changed. I felt bad for what Joyce was going through. I have been in a similar situation where my mistake cost a team the game. When you realize your mistake, you hate yourself for what you did. It is maddening and then depressing. It makes you nauseous to think about it. For some officials, it marks the beginning of the end of their career because they cannot shake the fear of ever making another mistake.
On the other hand, I hated that Galarraga did not get his “Perfect Game.” He missed going into the record books. He missed his opportunity to go on the David Letterman Show, and for a pitcher that had not had an illustrious career, he missed what may have been his one shining moment. It was an injustice. In fact it was just plain unfair.
Leaders must come to grips with the harsh reality that life is not fair. Unfortunately, good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. I have listened to basketball officials bemoan about how it is so unfair that people with less ability and experience get better games or how officiating supervisors are biased against certain races, or people below a certain height or people from a particular state. I have listened to salespeople lament about another salesperson that if they had a better territory like him or a large client like her they would be just as successful. I have heard just about every excuse a person can create and spouted a few myself about why I am not a better parent, spouse, employee, Leader, official, salesperson or Christian. The self-pity usually ends with, “if I had the same opportunity as that person then things would be different…”
Another issue with fairness is that it is subjective. Recently I listened as officials discussed the unfairness that an official who had been late to a small college play-off game continued to receive more play-off games from our supervisor. All of the officials agreed that it was unfair. I had a different perspective. This official had refereed fifty or more games that year with most considered less than the “premier” games, had driven thousands of miles across Texas and Oklahoma and through it all always maintained a positive attitude. Being late had never been an issue with this official in the past, so it was an isolated incident. He made one mistake, so I felt he deserved the play-off games, and he deserved the benefit of the doubt for his tardiness. People view fairness differently so what is fair to one person may be unfair to another.
So you may be asking, “What do I do about it?” The answer is simple but the application is extremely difficult. A great Leader:
- Devotes himself or herself to overcoming his own or his team’s obstacles, barriers and detractors
- Accepts total responsibility for his/her and his/her team’s current situation.
- Only concerns themselves with the one thing that he or she has complete control over, themselves.
- Focuses solely on reaching their full potential and helping their team reach their full potential and does not waste valuable time comparing themselves others.
Our society especially in sports has a win at all cost mentality and anything short of winning is failure. I subscribe to John Wooden’s philosophy that the key to leadership is helping yourself and others reach their full potential. In his book Wooden on Leadership, Wooden states, “Set your standards high, namely, do the absolute best of which you are capable. Focus on running the race rather than winning it. Do those things necessary to bring forth your personal best and don’t lose sleep worrying about the competition. Let the competition lose sleep worrying about you. Teach your organization to do the same.”
If after the competition is over you can honestly say, “I did my absolute very best and gave it everything I had,” then you have achieved success even if you were not the top salesperson, a playoff official or the winning team. Then, you can reevaluate, set new goals, develop and train yourself more to increase your ability and your potential.
The great challenge for all Leaders is to focus on our own struggles and look for our own opportunities and never get caught up in other people’s luck and good fortune. Even harder for a Leader is to genuinely be happy for other’s success even when it seems they had it “easy.”
Wherever you are in your life right now, there is someone doing better than you, catching more breaks, and falling into better opportunities. Wherever you are in your life right now, there is someone doing worse than you, catching less breaks, and missing more opportunities. Don’t be a slave to this world’s lack of fairness. Life may be unfair, but You are still the Master of Your Own Destiny.
“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” Lee Iacocca
“Again I looked throughout the earth and saw that the swiftest person does not always win the race, nor the strongest man the battle, and that wise men are often poor, and skillful men are not necessarily famous.” Ecclesiastes 9:11. The Living Bible
© 2010 Dennis Howard
Filed under: Leadership Pitfalls, Uncategorized | 18 Comments
Tags: Basketball, Fairness, Leader, Leadership, Officiating, Referee