Everyone is born into some set of opportunities. Refer to such a set of opportunities as the ‘opportunity set’. A person’s opportunity set first is defined by circumstances of parents, then by his or her environment. Culture, tastes, propensities, idiosyncrasies, biases, all are influenced to one degree or another by parents and the environment — siblings, neighbors, customs, weather etc.
As a person develops, formal education provides a forum for refining of the opportunity set. If the parents are medical doctors, formal education provides opportunity for development of a career in banking, engineering, etc. This feature of formal education probably is lost on many who, surrounded by formal education all of their lives, do not consciously realize that, absent formal education, unless taken in by an uncle who happens to be otherwise, children of doctors only would have capacity for becoming doctors,
But then, while parents remain alive, who prefers to be raised by an uncle?
Opportunity sets come with advantages and drawbacks that are naturally occurring, advantages and drawbacks that cannot be obviated, as such, only can be harnessed or addressed. A person born into a rich family may lack capacity for dealing with challenges that reside outside of context of money, this because he or she never really has had to overcome challenges in order to get ‘stuff’, as such, has not had opportunity for development of endurance or perseverance.
A person who has had to fight and claw for all that he or she has might become over reliant on the self, forget that while he or she has had to endure and persevere for success, still, absent some helping hands along the way, success would not have materialized.
Absent engagement with some other persons in context of economic activities, no one ever has achieved success. The willingness to engage with a ‘striver’ equates to lending of a ‘helping hand’.
The forum of Boxing provides a rich illustration of confluence of advantages and constraints (drawbacks) that are natural to a specific opportunity set.
In this respect, consider the heavyweight class of boxing. Typically, the boxers are big. But then, a few not so big. If a boxer is big, but does not max out his or her muscle strength, punches are weak, the hand easily can get broken, and winning of boxing bouts inherently is difficult. If a big boxer maxes out his or her muscle strength, some dexterity is lost — it becomes more difficult to reach behind the back for a scratch — and the range of boxing strategies that can be effective and efficient becomes limited. More often than not, such a boxer has to adopt an ‘overpower’ the opponent strategy. Think then, a boxer, such as George Foreman.
If a boxer is strong and wiry, but yet not big, think Muhammad Ali, he is unable to match the big guys in muscle power. In order to generate power in his punches, the focus has to be on the stomach muscles and the gut. But then, ,there only is so much power that can be drawn from such depths in any one boxing match. In presence of highlighted constraint, the wiry boxer has to learn to ‘parry and parry’ and wait for the opening that renders drawing on the guts for extra power effective and efficient,
Suppose then a big boxer who goes after the midriff of a wiry, well trained boxer. Given a well trained wiry boxer has focused on strengthening of his midriff as his strongest suit, he has capacity for absorbing a lot of punches. Simultaneously, the law of motion — to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction — implies there exists the danger that punches to the midriff help strengthen the midriff, with outcome probability of emergence of the ‘losing the legs’ phenomenon is decreased by onslaught of the bigger boxer.
In presence of the foregoing, we arrive at an important error on George Foreman’s part in the bout that Muhammad Ali won — going after the midriff played right into Ali’s hands, ensured Ali had the legs down the stretch to take the fight to Foreman.
In aggregate, we arrive at the inference that, relative to ‘superior muscle power’, a ‘lower muscle power’ opportunity set generates a different set of effective and efficient boxing strategies, with outcome, a ‘parry parry, suck in the guts for power’ strategy can beat an overpower strategy, and vice versa.
Boxing is real competition because it pits advantages and constraints of one opportunity set against another.
An important ingredient for success in life is arrival at understanding of advantages and constraints of one’s opportunity set. In Boxing, wiry Sugar Ray Leonard beat bigger guys like the Marvelous Marvin Hagler using the same ‘parry, parry, wait for opportunity to unleash power in the guts’ strategy that Ali applied towards beating Foreman.
The most important component of anyone’s opportunity set is the sum total of ability, skill, knowledge, expertise, and reputation (KEO) that already is acquired. In this respect, no matter how brilliant, a 35-year brain surgeon will not arrive at tryout for a starting soccer player spot with Manchester United. In presence of importance of KEO, and frustrations that can characterize adulthood whenever a person arrives at the inference that he or she does not enjoy his or her KEO, we arrive at importance of educational systems that enhance teenagers’ awareness of the sort of KEO that would enhance enjoyment of life in adulthood. With formal educational systems increasingly taking on character of commodity transactions, however (increasingly, teachers are treated as commodities, as opposed to repositories of knowledge), it cannot be asserted that formal educational systems are getting better at helping young people figure out KEO they most likely will enjoy.
But then, do we still live in a world in which people have the appropriate regard for KEO in the sense that KEO is conferred with greater importance than membership in some favored network?
If you take some time to assess advantages and constraints that are natural to your opportunity set, the understanding such an exercise yields very well may be the ingredient that triggers new levels of effectiveness and efficiency.
We arrive then, at importance of understanding.