Wage Gaps vs. Effort Gaps

My first encounter with affirmative action was in 2008, when I showed up for college and compared application stats and scholarship awards with the girls in my dorm. Despite lower grades, fewer extracurricular activities, and wealthier and more highly-educated parents, the minority students received significantly more award money than me. It felt unfair.

Yet, that was outside of my control. So, instead of wallowing in self-pity, I committed myself to putting forth my best effort and building skills that would make me invaluable. If diversity hires and equity are going to be my roadblocks in life, I need to become, as Cal Newport would say, so good they can’t ignore me. And I believe I have.

People like to talk about ‘wage gaps’, ‘income gaps’, and ‘wealth gaps’.

However, they never about ‘skill gaps’, ‘effort gaps’, and ‘talent gaps’.

It take determination, perseverance, and grit to rise from novice to mastery in any area. It’s a distance littered with failure and blows to the ego, and it’s a distance many are not willing to traverse. A lot of people want the gold, but few are willing to dig.

I recently read an article starting that college students expect to make $103,880 at their first job–almost twice the reality. I graduated during the recession and made $15,000 during my first year post-grad. I didn’t start making six-figures until I had eleven years of industry experience and had completed the training needed to achieve a position which commands a higher salary.

A problem I see is that today’s young worker don’t recognize that they haven’t yet acquired all of the necessary skills for success; they can’t see that their college degree alone is not enough. This often leads to arrogant behavior and rationalization of failure. You can’t learn if you aren’t willing to admit ignorance.

Nowadays, everything is viewed through a lens of equity and inclusion. While this sounds great in theory, we are trying to achieve uniformity while simultaneously celebrating diversity. Effort, skill, and talent are sacrificed in the process.

It has become a race to the bottom. We’ve empowered the weakest among us to stay where they are and to hate those who work hard to rise above adverse circumstances. Using disparate impact to “prove” racism and sexism uses effect to prove cause and that;s just a tautology. Beyond that, it’s a statistical illusion, since the bell curve on all the marginalized categories of people shows 95% of everyone fall within the center. It’s the 5% contained in the margins that create the disparity.

Over the last 15 years, I have spent an ungodly amount of time considering this topic. I’ve come to believe that people talk about “wage gaps” and “wealth gaps” because it removes their control over the situation and, thus, their personal responsibility. The chosen terminology allows people to deflect blame and not admit their own shortcomings. We live in a victim-mentality world, and the media largely promotes this messaging. Most people never consider they have power over their present effort and future outcomes.

I believe that almost everybody can do better for themselves than any government will ever do for them. That’s the message people need to hear. Watch educational videos online. Find a mentor. Set up a budget. Start working out. You have the power to make a positive change. Once baby step at a time. There will always be a Gap of some kind, but it can’t be fixed with government intervention.

Our current society confuses equal opportunity and equal outcome thanks to a generation indoctrinated to believe that the world owes them trophies for trying. The thing is, too many people don’t want to be part of the process; they only want to be part of the outcome. And this is precisely which “equity” or equality of outcomes cannot fundamentally work. You can’t have equal outcomes when people aren’t equal in skill or work ethic. Personally, I believe that the growing school choice movement presents the opportunity to level the playing field early on and give all children the resources to thrive educationally.

People need to realize that the most successful individuals are those who put forth the most effort, acquire the most skills, and develop a marketable talent. I’ve noticed that those who figure this out and apply the practice see dramatic improvements in their lives over the course of five to ten years.

5 thoughts on “Wage Gaps vs. Effort Gaps

  1. Well said, esoterica. I work in further/higher education and see this regularly in the classroom. Students think everything should be easy and not have to work or put in effort. You are right about the gaps that aren’t considered. I think there will also be cultural differences and attitudes across international borders, but there are also many similarities in an attitude of entitlement which means people don’t want to put in the effort to achieve and fill those gaps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your insights from the field! While it’s too bad to hear that students wanting it easy relatively common, the awareness is valuable so we can learn from and consider ways to break down that attitude of entitlement.

      Liked by 1 person

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