The Unfair Advantage 

Does hard work truly equate to success? Yes it does (Sort of). I would say the math works out to be “Success = Hard Work x (Working Smarter + Luck)”. And in general, we know that if we increase any of these variables within reason, our success will be much greater! The Unfair Advantage by Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba discusses how we are all born with a set of ‘Unfair Advantages’ that can propel us into living successful lives. This advantage deals more so with the Working Smarter + Luck end of the equation to success. We can only work so hard in 24 hours between all of our responsibilities but working smarter allows us to get more stuff done within this 24 hour window and having luck means being able to skip steps towards success. Let me explain:

The start of the book begins with a quote from Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel on how he was able to reach his success: “‘**I am a young, white, educated male … I got really, really lucky. And life isn’t fair.’**”. And he isn’t wrong in saying that, Spiegel grew up and used his already available resources around him (affluent parents, strong education, and big-name connections) to make Snapchat and become successful. So was he lucky? Yes. Could his circumstances be copied? No. Can we still achieve success in life similar to his or in our own right? Of course! But we need to identify our Unfair Advantage and work towards that.

Another polar opposite the book starts off with relatively early with is Oprah Winfrey. A woman who we are all fairly familiar with as being a black North American multibillionaire. If you are unaware with her backstory, she didn’t have anywhere near as good of a childhood as Evan Spiegel unfortunately growing up in an extremely low-income household, having to deal with colorism inside of her own family plus a traumatic past of sexual molestation and assault. However, her parent did something that catapulted her into her amazing future career which was teaching her how to read extremely early in life. This later allowed her to be a top student in school, get major scholarships for college, have her own radio show which later turned into a television show that we know her for today.

They both had very opposite starting places but both are in very amazing positions today. The book discusses the MILES Framework of Unfair Advantages which can explain that phenomenon:

(M) Money: the capital you have, or that you can easily raise. (Spiegel had this)

(I) Intelligence and Insight: includes ‘book smarts’, social and emotional intelligence, as well as

creativity. (Oprah had this)

(L) Location and Luck: all about being in the right place at the right time. (Spiegel had this)

(E) Education and Expertise: our formal schooling and also your self-learning, which gives

you intellectual and technical know-how. (Both of them had this)

(S) Status: social status, including your network and connections. It’s your ‘personal brand’ ‒

in other words, how you’re perceived. It also includes your inner status, which is your

confidence and self-esteem. (Spiegel had this but Oprah grew this for herself as well)

Everyone has at least one of these unfair advantages and in most cases, can cultivate some of the others! For us individuals chasing medicine, I would argue that we definitely have the Intelligence but maybe we need to cultivate Education (This goes beyond taking classes. This means reading on your free time or using the internet to teach you about certain aspects of the application process or gaining mentorship as you are doing with this site.). From there, you can leverage your Location/Luck. Maybe you go to school fairs or pre-med/research conferences, meet with people and then build your Status. And then leverage yourselves into the right positions of power and success. That’s an example of pinpointing your unfair advantage and using it to cultivate other advantages based on that.

For me personally, it was really the intelligence and location. My Mom was always running behind me when I was younger, putting me in school as early as the age of 2 where I practiced reading and writing. Then also me going to school in NYC allowed me to have a decent education while working in some of the best hospitals and shadowing some of the best doctors in the country. From there, I leveraged myself into getting better with other unfair advantages.

I know in light of current times with the black community under fire between police brutality and the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting us, we may feel powerless. But believe me when I say, we still have the potential to be great and things are still trending in the right direction (albeit we still have a lot of work to get done in the communities). However, rather than just working hard, we need to change our mindsets into working efficiently to maximize our results in life. If you have any questions or thoughts to add, please feel free to comment down below. I hope you enjoyed and stay safe!

-Jevaughn (Jay)

Dr. Dale

Jevaughn, great post. GREAT idea to suggest books with a brief recap. Excellent! Thanks for writing this post!

7 months ago