The Ovarian Lottery
Years ago, I was fortunate enough to have dinner with Warren Buffett.
I vividly remember his observation that everyone at the table had “won the ovarian lottery.” In other words, each of us had been blessed by fortune simply by the circumstances of our birth.
We took for granted our access to core financial security—enough money for emergencies, life insurance, and long-term savings—along with our education, physical safety, and access to healthcare.
However, this is not the case for the vast majority of individuals and families across the world who struggle in poverty, lack basic education, and have limited healthcare access.
COVID-19 has taken an already divided world—between those living in plenty and others on the edges of society—and ripped that divide wide open.
With the planet essentially hitting pause, thus causing many people’s incomes to trickle to a halt, we are beginning to remember just how close to the edge millions of people live on a daily basis, without the means to sustain core needs.
As I write this, tens of millions have filed for unemployment in the United States, the government has already spent trillions in providing economic benefits, and we are still in the early innings.
Fear or Wise Action
In moments like this, much like every moment in our lives, there is a chance to drop into fear or ascend to wise action.
The path of fear is the path of the partisan leader, often with authoritarian leanings. This playbook calls for divisiveness: pointing fingers, fear mongering, distraction, profiting from the weak, racism, and xenophobia. This can escalate into violence. Our last world war brought about global economic collapse, ultimately followed by genocide.
The other path—away from fear and instead toward wise action—involves coming together and lifting up the lives of those on the edges of our society, while simultaneously bringing us all closer together and creating a stronger foundation for our companies and country. This path involves leaders emphasizing our common values rather than our outer differences in style or opinions.
It is the path of wise action, and it’s the only sustainable path for us over the long term.
The path of wise action involves an effort from all parts of society, from governments and schools, to businesses and board leadership, even extending to how we show up at work or act as parents.
What I Believe
I believe in a world where the ovarian lottery is a thing of the past. This is not a communist world where everyone is equally impoverished and miserable, but a vibrant capitalist economy and society in which we have equal access to opportunities, and adequate resources when we fall.
I believe in a world in which business helps every person get their core financial, educational, and physical and mental health needs met.
Although we are a long way from this world, and the work may take much longer than my own lifetime, I believe it is worth starting on that path.
The World I Want to Build: 8 Billion Financial, Education, and Healthcare Needs Met
Imagine you put everyone’s name in a giant bowl of almost 8 billion names. You pull out a name and are born into that body for a lifetime. Regardless of the life you’re born into, I believe you are entitled to have your core financial, educational, and physical and mental health needs met.
More specifically, this means you have access to affordable financial services, including the guidance and tools to save enough for emergencies, the ability to borrow affordably if you fall on hard times, insurance products that provide income during critical disability or death of a parent, a comfortable roof over your head, and long-term savings that provide for a dignified retirement.
As you come of age, you’re able to obtain a quality education that enables you to gain respectable employment, as well as access to adult education to retrain if technology eliminates your profession.
You’ll also have access to healthcare services to provide you with quality health support when you need it.
These numerous core needs don’t necessarily make someone happy; the art of fulfillment is a different science than the art of achievement. However, a lack of basic financial, educational, and health care needs usually leads to deep suffering, first on an individual level, and, eventually, on a societal level.
The world I want to help build won’t be easy to create, nor will it be achieved fully within my lifetime. Still, I will continue to work with inspired, like-minded people to take incremental steps on that journey.