Monday, August 29, 2016

Actually You Can't

Perhaps we hear it more during the Olympics, but it’s always out there. The great athlete “giving back” and telling wide-eyed youngsters, “You can be anything you want to be if you’re willing to work hard enough.” The award-winning entertainer, who after sharing their story of struggle and years of grinding away behind the scenes finally got their big break and made the most of it. “You can do it. Just work hard at your craft and don’t stop believin’”. (Cue up the classic Journey song now.) The politician out on the campaign trail preaching the gospel of greatness, not just for a few but for all of us. We can have it all and we can have it all right now. Dream Big.

So you may ask, what’s wrong with giving people encouragement? Why not tell the poor kid living in the projects that he or she can be anything they want to be? Why can’t the high school drop-out, single mother living in a trailer somewhere in Southeast Oklahoma eventually be discovered while singing Karaoke on Friday nights at the neighborhood bar? Well, I suppose anything is possible. It’s what keeps people buying lottery tickets. But there is also this little thing called Reality and it’s a bitch.

The kid in the projects who might not be quite big enough, or fast enough, or strong enough, or athletic enough to ever get paid to play a sport can want it badly. He might work extremely hard to get it. But just because he wants it and works hard to get it, doesn’t mean he will get it if he doesn’t have the talent. Same thing for that would be singer belting it out anywhere where they might let her on stage.

But what’s wrong with letting people believe they can climb that mountain? Nothing as long as they are realistic and have a plan B. Fact is, when you tell someone they CAN BE ANYTHING they want to be, that sometimes puts blinders on. Focus and commitment are good things. Blinders not so good.

The Army got it right with their recruiting slogan, “Be All That You Can Be”. That’s a different and better message than “You can be anything you want to be…”. Actually you can’t “be anything you want to be”.
But you can “be all that you can be.” Be the best basketball player you can be and maybe you’ll get a scholarship. If you’re really special, maybe you’ll make a lot of money someday playing basketball. But don’t put all your eggs in one basket (ball). Get an education, stay out of trouble. If you love basketball, maybe you end up coaching. But don’t be stupid and just expect to “get paid” because you’re can put the ball in the basket. And while you’re trying to become the next Nashville super star, it might not be a bad idea to get that GED and check out some alternative career options.

Dream Big? Absolutely. There is nothing wrong with grabbing for the gold. But, you need to keep reality in mind and know where you’re going to land if your arms are just not long enough.

“No man will be found in whose mind airy notions do not sometimes tyrannize, and force him to hope or fear beyond the limits of sober probability.” ~Samuel Johnson

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