Shortly after I became a professional speaker in 2001, one of my first speaking opportunities was doing a keynote and breakout session for a special group of high school technology students in Georgia. The interesting thing is the racial balance of the group. The largest group was African-American students, followed by hispanic, then white, and finally asian. White students were definitely a minority. Those who booked me wanted me to share with the kids whatever I felt was most important for them to know concerning how to succeed in life. Here is what I shared, and still believe today. It was a bit controversial to a few, but applauded by most.
After making a good connection and developing a rapport with these eager kids I asked them, “Tell me… did racism, sexism and discrimination exist 100 years ago?” They all nodded, yes. Next I asked, “Do racism, sexism and discrimination exist today?” Again, they nodded. I then said, “Not to sound pessimistic but do you think racism, sexism, and discrimination will exist 100 years from now?” Again, everyone nodded in agreement. I then asked, “So… what does that mean for you?” I paused. They looked a little confused. So I said…
“It means, succeed anyway! Yes, succeed in spite of that. Will it be harder for you? Yes. Succeed anyway. Will you have to do more than others? Probably. Succeed anyway. Is that fair? Not on your life. Succeed anyway. The moment you blame your lack of success on someone else, you take all of your power and hand it to the very people you don’t want to have it. The best way to STICK IT to your detractors is to become a raving success, if for no other reason than just to spite them.”
There are plenty of valid reasons not to succeed. Accept any one of them and you will fail. I would LOVE to see all racism, sexism and unfair discrimination erased from the earth. But I do not believe or observe that reversing the discrimination toward the majority effects any real change. Instead, quotas and preferential treatment based on minority status in tend to give birth to the tyranny of low expectations, and send the message that “You’re not good enough to make it without a handicap… you are in fact, handicapped.” I don’t believe that. I believe we have too many leaders – both national and local – who perpetuate victimhood, and thereby stunt personal, emotional and spiritual growth. This in turn perpetuates poverty, unemployment, and upward mobility. The people who have break the unfair molds and shatter wrongful stereotypes are the ones who CHOOSE to just freakin’ rise above… those who’ve just plain succeeded. Anyway.