Looking into the gifts that countless people don’t even realize they possess.

My good high school friend was ordinary in every sense of the word. I hate to use the word “average” but it applies.

Meanwhile, his brother was a genetic specimen. He was tall, handsome, a state champion athlete. He was brilliant and funny.

When girls came over, they often paused in the hallway, seeing family photos, and said, “Holy cow. Is that your brother?” My friend was cool about it and often joked, “Yeah, man. I got screwed.”

The universe has a long track record of bestowing gifts on random people, unfair advantages they got through no effort of their own.

To parent or not to parent

My girlfriend gave me a pep talk before visiting her family for the first time. She said, “My parents are kind of intense. They are the highest order of busy-body. You’re probably going to be assigned to chores.”

It came true, which was fine. Her parents are lovely people. After having two girlfriends with turbulent, toxic families, I welcomed the tranquility.

However, I call them Earthwalkers because of their high energy levels.

They’re hyper industrious and organized. When I visit, they half-jokingly refer to downtime as “structured free time.” They’re a bit like bower birds, who spend 18 hours a day perfecting their nest to attract a mate.

This style of living is tedious but it’s paid off. Their house is clean. They never lose or forget things. Above all — their kids are stellar. My girlfriend got her Ph.D. from a good school, and her only sibling is an anesthesiologist. Both are well-adjusted and happy.

She and her brother are certainly intelligent— but it wasn’t like they coasted through school. Their parents modeled and taught them the right behavior. They were never screamed at or hit. They were pushed and held accountable in a firm, loving manner.

It’s a testament to the value of good parenting. And yet what made them, or any person, more worthy of good parents than anyone else?

This is the dice roll each of us took. We had the audacity to be born. Some of us rolled two sixes and got a great nurturing home. Others rolled snake-eyes and are still recovering.

A broken sleep cycle

As a baby, I drove my mother nuts. She often couldn’t get me to sleep until midnight. I woke up frequently and wore her out.

I’m older and nothing has changed. Sleeping is hell. I have to do everything right. My bedroom is a sensory deprivation chamber. I have earplugs, a shirt I put over my eyes. The house has to be cold. And I still wake up at least once a night.

Conversely, 1–3% of the population is called “The Sleepless Elite”. They’re out cold within 10 minutes of lying down and wake up fully rested 4–6 hours later.

Meanwhile, I toss and turn for nine hours and wake up looking like a wet cat.

Before people begin to chime in — sleep doctors state that out of every 100 people who think they only need 4–6 hours of sleep, only five of them actually do. The remainder are experiencing some level of sleep deprivation.

Imagine going to bed knowing, without fail, that you’ll get an amazing night of sleep every time and wake up fully rested a few hours later. It’s an incredible gift.

“Do you remember when?”

You don’t need to be a genius, or even close to it, to rise to CEO or the high levels of leadership.

Yes, it certainly helps to be smart and hard-working. However, there’s an additional leadership trait that’s frequently cited by employees and rarely mentioned by writers: having incredible memory.

Countless times, I’ve sat in the board room, watching high-paid VPs getting grilled with the oddly specific questions (it was management’s way of testing them). These vice presidents were managing the construction of 15 different high rises with thousands of employees.

“How is the AC duct doing in the bathrooms on floor 48?”

“Who is your assistant electrical foreman on building seven?”

They always knew the answers. I can’t even remember where my car keys are.

This is the nature of management and leadership, taking in tons of information, making sense of it, and retaining important details.

CIA Director John Brennan worked with four presidents and said that Bill Clinton had shockingly good memory. He’d remember briefings from years prior and connect the dots to current information. Elon Musk, Da Vinci, and countless historical figures were famous for their incredible memory.

This invites the obvious question, how do I make my memory better? There’s no magic bullet. Just be healthy and challenge your mind every day. Outside of that, memory is mostly genetics.

The most proven path to wealth

Taylor Swift was born into a wealthy family. Her father, Scott Swift, was a stockbroker. When she was a teen, they moved to Nashville, where he bought a stake in a record company. They immediately signed her to a deal. It wasn’t a coincidence.

This isn’t to make a judgment on Swift, but to point out what people miss — many celebrities come from already wealthy families. That starting point didn’t guarantee them anything, but it opens doors and affords many second chances.

For example, our family friend in Florida is a wealthy business executive and was footing the bill for his wife and 12-year-old daughter to live in LA for her acting career. She was getting private tutoring, acting lessons, and attending auditions every week. It was very expensive. But she landed a role on a Disney show for five years, making $20,000 per episode.

Being born into wealth will seem unfair to the kids on a struggling farm in a developing country, trapped in circumstances that weren’t their fault.

I can’t blame successful people for trying to give their kids the best shot in life. They’ve earned that right and I’d probably do the same. However, I’ve seen that gesture cause a world of problems. There were more than a few “rich kid screwups” at my high school.

Sadly, one of my best friends is still unemployed, living at home (at 38), playing video games. He was smart and full of promise. But he fell through the cracks. His parents spoiled him too much and failed to discipline him.

Recap for memory: Four unfair advantages people get in life

  1. Being born to great parents who encourage and hold them accountable in a healthy way, free of yelling, insults, and hitting.
  2. The ability to fall asleep instantly, anywhere, and wake up fully rested in 5–6 hours or less.
  3. Having photographic memory. It pays huge dividends in your career and life.
  4. Being born into wealth. It gives you second chances and a list of advantages you don’t even realize are there.

These are all blessings. If you have any of them, don’t forget to practice gratitude. Many in the world pray for such gifts.