Some people are born with natural advantages that put them ahead of everyone else. If you happen not to need as much sleep as most people, for instance, you have extra time in the day.
In a popular Quora thread, users addressed the question: “What is the most unfair advantage a person can have?” The answers may open your eyes and help you take steps to level the playing field.
We’ve collected some of the top answers and added some of our own ideas. We’ll skip some of the more obvious advantages, including gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, which are all worth discussion elsewhere.
Here are some of the most unfair advantages that can help people get ahead in life, and what you can do if you lack them:
1. A need for little sleep
“This is a genuine and unfair advantage, since it is almost entirely genetic and not based around lifestyle or nutrition,” says serial entrepreneur Ivan Mazour. He mentions that former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher slept only four hours on weekdays, meaning that she had a 20-hour day to work in.
Nothing you can do to your sleep schedule will significantly affect your natural need for sleep, but if you recognise that you’re someone who needs eight hours of rest to function at your best, you can maximise your productivity by keeping your days on a tight schedule. And if you’re in a leadership position, figure out which tasks you can delegate to your employees rather than spending time on them yourself.
2. Nurturing parents
Just because someone is born with resources doesn’t mean they will have a well-adjusted life, says Quora user Michael Wong. Loving parents provide their children with wisdom and a support system that makes them happier and more capable of building relationships and having a successful career.
Studies have shown that the support of friends and family helps people deal with stress and recover from setbacks. So those who unfortunately had negligent parents can find a way to build a support system of their own.
3. An inclination to optimism
Some people naturally find the silver lining to every challenge that comes their way, which allows them to persist even after suffering a setback, says marketer Sondra Webber.
The good news is that happiness is ultimately a choice, and even those who are more inclined to be cynical don’t have to let it sabotage their success.
4. A photographic memory
You either have the ability to precisely remember words and visuals or you don’t, says writer Barry Hampe.
If you lack an eidetic memory, as it’s called, here are a few tricks for remembering numbers, text, names, and faces.
5. Physical attractiveness
Most people offer deference to those with pretty faces and bright smiles, says Quora user Peter Havas. Several studies show the advantages of being attractive, and a recent one even found that attractive male entrepreneurs bring in far more investor money than their less attractive counterparts.
Don’t fret if you weren’t born to strut down the runway. People respond positively to anyone who takes care of their hygiene and dresses appropriately for their industry.
6. The ability to resist temptation
Those who can delay gratification have the ability to control their emotions and impulses and usually end up more successful, says Quora user Kyle Pennell.
It’s worth identifying the distractions that are holding you back. Then, whenever the temptation to indulge them arises, you’ll be better able to ignore it.
“It is an innate quality that immediately disarms people and influences another person’s behaviour to lean in your favour,” says Quora user Genevieve Gonnigan. “A charming person will have the advantage in almost every situation.”
The late Napoleon Hill, a pioneer of the self-help genre, highlighted some of the key traits of the most likable people. They’re things that anyone can work on, like knowing when not to speak your mind and how to make someone feel important.
Even if you don’t have the advantage of a powerful collegiate network, you can maximise your chances of catching a big break by developing relationships with those you meet at networking opportunities.
9. The ability to selectively ignore people’s feelings
Quora user Zafar A. Ansari goes so far as to say that a “lack of conscience” is a natural advantage, but there’s plenty of research that shows the opposite, that close personal and professional relationships are your biggest asset on the path to success.
He does have a point, however, because those who can ignore someone’s feelings when competing against them for a promotion or in a negotiation have a better chance of doing what is best for achieving their goal.
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