And Now For Some Controversy…

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United Airlines recently announced that they would reserve 50% of their pilot training spots for minorities. In other words, they’d hire people based on their skin color, or their sex. Or both. Presumably this means that some of the most qualified pilot candidates would be turned down based on reverse racism or sexism.

For the record, I’ve never taken any notice of who is piloting the plane I’m flying in (except once in the Philippines when I could swear that the pilot hadn’t yet gone through puberty. That time I was a bit on edge).

The skin color or sex of the pilot is irrelevant to me. Never thought about it before. But suddenly, it becomes relevant because I’m afraid that the person piloting my plane was chosen for reasons other than his/her merit. That there were better potential pilots turned away in favor of weaker ones in order to fill a quota somewhere. Do they know how to land in an emergency?!

When your life is in someone else’s hands, merit suddenly means something. Hire by whatever criteria you want for jobs where lives aren’t at risk. But when it’s a matter of life and death, please choose the best. Do you want the person who takes out your appendix to be in their role for any reason other than that they’re the best at it?

Attacking or penalizing qualified people does not create better conditions for unqualified people. Everyone should have an equal chance to become qualified and to improve their own life.

In the profession where this matters most (professional sports) it’s all and only about merit. Imagine the Vancouver Canucks announcing that from now on they were going to hire 50% of their roster based on ethnicity or sex. Unthinkable. Why? Because they want to win.

This works both ways. I once consulted with a company who considered saying no to an immigrant candidate simply because he was an immigrant. But he was the best qualified person. I spoke up strongly and they hired him.

Do you want to win? Then be committed to hiring the best regardless of these other factors.

At no time in history has poverty been alleviated by creating more of it. As Winston Churchill said, “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.” The same is true of capitalism – the opportunity for every person to improve their lives based on their ambition, their work ethic, their intelligence, and their drive.

I recently had lunch with a first generation immigrant who came to this country not knowing the language or having any advantages. No job. No education. I asked him the secret to his success (which is significant). He said, “I worked my ass off.” He’s smart too, and ambitious.

Another young friend recently told the story of his dad dropping out of middle school, coming to America and picking fruit. And fathering a son (him) who is talented, ambitious, now highly educated, and nearing the top of his profession (he’s still pretty young, but he’ll get there). There are stories like this everywhere.

The merit/ambition solution is open to anyone, anywhere.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of a number of clients who’ve done the same thing, from all over the world. India, Africa, Eastern Europe, China, Japan. Makes no difference. They had significant success in one generation based on their merit. I care least about the factors that each person had little or nothing to do with: who their parents were, what country they came from, the color of their skin etc. I care about effort and attitude. And merit.

Success is open to anyone. That’s the beauty of the West.

Best team wins.

Getting ahead is about getting started.

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Written by Trevor Throness
Trevor is a veteran coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book “The Power of People Skills” released by Career Press NY in 2017. He’s also written for or been featured in places like Forbes, Inc, The NY Post, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, CEO Magazine, and numerous podcasts and interviews.

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