collegeWhether you like it or not, life isn’t fair.

Eric Hoover lays this issue bare in a recent article in the NY Times, What Colleges Want in an Applicant (Everything).

This same principal applies to many of the goals you set for yourself in life. If you want to “get in,” “make it,” or “succeed” in anything that depends on being chosen by an independent individual or committee, you MUST show up as the absolute best version of you that you can muster.

Bring anything less than your best to the table, and you take yourself out of the running.  Even as the best version of you, you may not make the team or get that dream job, because someone else always has better training, spent more time preparing, and got a better night’s sleep than you did. Or just tells a more compelling story.

The most important lesson my parents taught me was that even when I don’t control the outcome, the outcome still inevitably depends on my inputs. My job is to work on my inputs until they are good enough to qualify me for the outcomes I want.

“Jonathan,” my dad would say to me before soccer tryouts, a job interview, or a big school project, “you can accomplish anything you want in this world if you are willing to give up other things.”

And now I tell my kids that making tradeoffs is the key to success. You’ve got to be willing to give up something to get something. Do you go to the party or do you finish your project? Do you get a good night’s sleep or do you text your girlfriend into the wee hours of the morning? Do you stay up playing ping pong or do you study for the big exam? Do you screw around with your buddies at practice and distract the rest of the team, or do you bring your game face to the field?

Life is full of decisions. Making the right ones doesn’t guarantee you’ll make the cut, but life is a lot less “fair” if you always make the wrong ones.