While spending time at a friend’s house yesterday, I couldn’t help but to hear the cheers coming from the television in the living room. A few people were huddled watching the NCAA basketball tournament and after watching the end of one game and the beginning of another, I couldn’t help but wonder, how many Americans are watching this? That got me to thinking about how many student athletes would actually turn pro. When I returned home, I looked up statistics provided by the NCAA and the numbers astounded me. About 2% of college baseball players make it to the professional ranks. All other sports, male and female combined? Less than 1%.
Granted, the student athletes may have a portion of their education funded, but not all do. Student athletes have to devote significant time to their coaches and teammates. On the web, I read story after story about how the athletes’ devotion took time away from their ability to study and prepare for work outside athletic pursuits. It was heartbreaking to read stories of glorified athletes who did not make it to the professional level of their sport and were then left with no choice but to work at a low-paying job because their non-athlete classmates were offered the lucrative corporate positions.
The NCAA is not the only place we see hundreds of millions of dollars being redistributed into the hands of the few with a small percentage actually going to the people doing the work. Think Apple and Foxconn. Think Citizens United and super PACs. Think Wall Street and the mortgage crisis. The Big Three being bailed out.
If you don’t think you can make a difference, you are mistaken. You can. Here are four actions you can take to reward those who are working hard daily.
1. Refocus on Actions Taken – Instead of adoring celebrities and athletes for what they can do or what they have, focus on what they did to get to a place of success. The effort they put in was tremendous, find ways to develop your plan and work that plan so that you can achieve success in whatever way you define it. You don’t want what they have, you want what you want. Go get it.
2. Refocus on Those Creating Meaning – Refocus your adulation on educators, artists, scientists, volunteers, and others who are making meaningful change come to life every day. It is clear that a very minute percentage of people actually become celebrities, athletes, or incredibly wealthy. Determine your passion in life and work towards meaningful prosperity by surrounding yourself with others who are impacting their communities positively.
3. Refocus Away From the TV – Turn off your television. Instead, read, learn continually, and develop your community. The institutions that are paying millions of dollars for commercials are extractive, provide thin value, and have a hidden agenda that is not discussed in the mainstream media. There is only so much pink slime, talk about Republican debates, and fear mongering about Middle Eastern countries who have nuclear capabilities that one can take. Forget the propaganda and arm yourself with the education necessary to find your version of success in the 21st century.
4. Refocus Your Spend – Don’t spend your money with institutions that make homeless people wireless hotspots or those that pay their execs large bonuses, but cut merit pay or incentive plan increases for front-line staff. I understand that the world is changing rapidly, but that doesn’t mean that it is okay to not support and engage the people that are taking care of the customers. Money talks. Let yours speak for you by spending money with local shops that want what you want; a meaningful relationship.
If you are tired of being intellectually waterboarded (thank you Umair Haque) with meaningless information, avoid a McFuture filled with iStuff. Striving to obtain the next iPad, a McMansion, or trip to The Masters so that you can tell your friends you were there may lead to a life devoid of purpose. Develop your community by taking these simple steps.
Instead of buying your favorite team’s jersey, find a way give back to the NCAA athlete who is not going pro (≈99% of the student athletes) by creating a community where he or she can prosper after the glory days have come and gone.