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On Human Differences

ยท 3 min read
Jimmy Chu

At times, when I observe two individuals, one brimming with motivation, purpose, courage, and wisdom, while the other seems to embody the concept of 'average,' I find myself pondering the root of this disparity. This contemplation is not merely an intellectual exercise but a philosophical journey that holds practical implications for shaping the future generation.

I can come up with many possible answers, such as his background, education, and the environment he was immersed in. Eventually, this leads to his upbringing and his family. I could further argue that the lessons, thinking, and reflections he has learned and accumulated in his life make a difference. It is the choices he had made that, in turn, affected the environment he would be in next and the opportunity and network he would face. Furthermore, the choices, environment, and learning will shape one's character. As his character builds up, this further affects the choices he makes. These choices don't have to be significant at first. It could be like deciding to wake up early every morning and keep a morning routine of 45 minutes of meditation and body exercise. As a result, this gives him better physical and mental health and allows him to perform better in his workplace. In this scenario, the outcome of better working performance is determined when he decides to have a morning routine, a time that is not visible to everyone except himself. When all these small choices accumulate, they will slowly but surely widen the gap between two people's life trajectories.

Tracing time backward, we will see that his learning, upbringing, and decisions are the effect of decisions he made further in the past, and that, in turn, affect his future. When we trace all the way back in time, only two infants were born in two different families. So, what is the cause of their difference in life trajectories, assuming these infants are not abnormal in any scales?

When the kids are as blank as a white sheet, we can only look at the external factors. So a significant determining factor is their family, their parents, and, to a broader extent, the society they reach (yes, this "society" could be very different even if they live in the same city because the society again highly depends on the "class" their families are in). How the parents raise these two kids and what character-building principles and lessons the parents infused in the kids in their early stages will start causing the difference in their trajectories.

But what about the infants' own will? In the beginning, their will plays an insignificant, or at best, minor, role. It mainly depends on external factors. But as they live on, their own will become more significant in shaping their interest, decisions, careers, and thus opportunities. Consequently, what is mentioned in the second paragraph follows. What shapes a person's will at an early stage then? Well, I thought hard about it, but I can't come up with a reasonable explanation except deferring to chances and randomness. So a more complete picture should be that early in one's life, one's character and trajectory depend very much on the external factors one is in, whether it is the family, society, etc. However, the longer one has lived, the less likely we can attribute one's life trajectory to these external factors and randomness but more to one's learning and personal decisions.