“Ok, kids, Line up in alphabetical order.” I cannot say how many times I have heard that schoolteacher’s call. Perhaps we were heading out for recess. Maybe we were lining up for the field trip bus. It may have been the lunch line and we were selecting white or chocolate milk. This scenario continued into secondary school when on the first day the professor was handing out the history books, or gym uniforms. In every grade, students were ordered alphabetically with the same ones always up front and the same lonely group always stuck in the back of the line, hoping whatever was being distributed didn’t run out.
Such was my experience growing up as a “W”.I often joked about it as Alphabet Discrimination. The Andersons, Butlers and Camps are oblivious to this concept, but the Wilsons, Youngs and Zaviers out there know just what I am talking about. We, of the bottom 13 letters rarely enjoyed chocolate milk because the top 13 always snatched them up. I spent my school years at the back of every classroom (usually on a broken desk), getting textbooks with the covers torn off, or worse, having to share with a Victor or an Underwood. I was always last out to recess, got the only remaining seat on the bus (if there was one), and by the time they called my name for graduation the raucous crowd that cheered the A’s and B’s, was only politely clapping just wishing it would finally end.
At one point I considered entering politics so I could fix this unfairness but learned that the bottom 13 are far less likely to get elected given their position on most state ballots. (And here Joe Biden thought it was his cute stories.)
What has been a tongue-in-cheek joke of mine for many years I recently learned is actually a real problem.Significant research has shown that due to a lifetime of “last” and “leftovers,” the bottom 13ers of the Alphabet are statistically less successful than the upper 13. In fact, I just Googled the ten richest billionaires in America and five of their last names begin with the letter “B.” What are the odds? But all is not lost. Researchers discovered that when a person is ambitious, they can use alphabet discrimination as motivation to excel. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for standing up for the rest of us end-of-liners. Apparently, we are “supposed” to be the underdogs.
Being an underdog means you have a tougher fight ahead, but if you use that status for motivation rather than self-pity, there are numerous examples of those who have come out on top. In the investing world, sometimes being first and biggest can lead to laziness or complacency. Next year’s winner may very well be the lesser-known company near the end of today’s line. If the individuals running the show are talented and motivated with something to prove, they may be worth a look. As investors, don’t be too quick to ignore the underdogs.
Dan Wyson, CFP® is author of “The Gold Egg,” and “21 Financial Myths” and owner of Wyson Financial/Wealth Management 375 E. Riverside Dr. St. George, UT 84790 – 435-986-9525 – Securities and Advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, member FINRA/SIPC, a registered investment advisor