I recently had the opportunity to watch an incredible video of Eric Thomas, the "Hip-Hop Preacher" trying his best to motivate some students at Michigan State.
This week I’d like to talk about three young men, whom I have known since they were born. Each is now approximately 20 years old and each has chosen a completely different path from one another.
The first young man is named Mario. Mario is the product of a broken home and essentially raised by his mother since he was only 4 or 5 years old (although his father was always around and is still very much a part of his life). He is an only child.
Mario’s parents both worked outside the home. His mother was a production planner for a small assembly company and his father was a salesman for an office furniture company.
His mother and he lived comfortably but not lavishly in a small two bedroom condominium in a blue-collar neighborhood.
From an early age, you could see that Mario was raised with a strong work ethic and was taught good manners and etiquette. His mother stressed personal responsibility and gave him the ability to be independent at an early age.
Each day he came home from school, did his homework, and helped to prepare dinner for his mom and himself.
He received straight A’s throughout his grade school and high school years mostly through hard work, discipline and dedication.
Mario had several hobbies such as cars, photography, and electronic gadgetry. On weekends, he worked around his neighborhood to earn extra money to support his hobbies.
His hard work in school paid off when he was admitted to attend UCLA on a (near) full-ride scholarship to study mechanical engineering.
His life-long goal is to learn how to design and build cars and in particular engines.
He has just finished his junior year and is on track to finish this rigorous degree (normally a five year program) in only four years... due mostly in part to taking several summer school classes instead of hanging out at the beach all summer.
I have no doubt that Mario will achieve his dreams of being an engineer and designing cars one day due to his incredible work ethic and his laser focus on his goals.
The second young man is named Ian.
Ian is also an only child of two working parents living in a blue-collar neighborhood.
Like Mario, Ian too had big dreams growing up but instead of wanting to become an automotive engineer like Mario, Ian instead had dreams of becoming a major league baseball pitcher.
He started playing baseball at a young age and showed a lot of promising talent (well... for a 5 year old that is).
His parents allowed him to play on several all-star caliber little-league teams going with him to practices and games. While on these travel teams, he received coaching and specialized attention to help him learn the basic fundamentals of playing baseball, the mechanics of pitching, and the art of hitting.
Although Ian typically played baseball 6-8 months a year, his parents also kept him focused on his studies. He would only be allowed to play baseball if and only if he maintained his grades in school.
Ian continued to play and learn new skills. He was one of those kids who were deemed "coachable" by always playing hard, maintaining a positive attitude (even when things didn’t always go his way), and listening to his teachers and mentors as they tried to make him a better player.
Ian was not only privileged to have hand-eye skills at an early age, but he was also extremely fortunate to develop a physique that would allow him to reach the lofty goals that he had set for himself... growing to 6’ 2" developing a muscular frame through high school.
As you might imagine, Ian attracted the attention of college and professional scouts who could see that Ian had developed, not only into a fine baseball player, but into a poised and mature young man.
After many athletic scholarship offers from universities across the country, Ian selected the University of San Diego to stay close to his home base.
This year, Ian led his high school team to their third consecutive county championship game. He set the San Diego County all-time strike-out record and completed the year with an ERA under 1.00 (this stat measures how many runs he gives up over a 9 inning span).
This morning, Ian was named the county’s baseball player of the year by the San Diego Union Tribune.
About 7pm this evening (local time), Ian Clarkin was drafted by the New York Yankees in the first round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft fulfilling his goal of one day playing professional baseball.
While an offer to play professional baseball for the New York Yankees might be tempting, Ian was also named one of the top scholar athletes in the county and might very well end up accepting the scholarship offered to him by USD in order to earn a college diploma as well as playing baseball.
The last young man I know is Jacob.
Like Mario, Jacob grew up in working-class neighborhood. He is not an only child but rather is the second of two.
Jacob is extremely intelligent, polite and socially aware. He has a multitude of friends and a vast network of family connections.
He also seems to suffer from a lack of any real motivation to do anything but hang out with his friends, watch TV and play video games.
At one time in his life he was involved with his church, Boy Scouts, and organized youth sports... but ended up quitting once it took a little bit of work and discipline.
His parents have pushed and prodded him to do his school work but he has always been content with barely passing grades doing the least amount of work possible to eke by.
His parent have tried enrolling Jacob in private schools, hired tutors, and spent countless amount of hours trying to keep him on task.
They have tried to punish him (by taking privileges away from him) and have tried to offer him rewards for achieving goals that he set for himself.
Although he always seems to start out with the best intentions, he grows lazy after a short amount of time and chooses to forgo the incentives.
He is not motivated by money... until he discovers that he wants to buy something... at which time he will work just long and hard enough to earn the appropriate sum he needs and then quits.
He managed to scrape through high school with barely enough credits to graduate and has been attending a community college... passing only a handful of classes in a two years span.
At the urging of his parents, I met with Jacob recently and asked him about his goals.
He told me that he was hoping one day to graduating college and buy a house. When I pressed him for more details on his "plan"... he simply dismissed me by telling me that he had it all worked out in his head and that I shouldn’t spend my time worrying about him.
His parents recently have told him that unless he raises his grades to a minimum level, he would be asked to vacate the family home at the end of the year. Jacob doesn’t seem to be fazed by this edict and has told them that he doesn’t mind living on the streets if he’s asked to leave.
Jacob’s parents and friends are rightfully concerned for him, but he is now a young adult who doesn’t even seem to care about his own welfare.
For the most part, Jacob is not considered spoiled or privileged. He simply just doesn’t seem to care about himself or the community in which he lives.
Three different boys raised with basically the same family resources. Each with a loving and caring family. Each with a high level of intelligence and natural abilities.
The large difference I see in these three young men is that two of them have envisioned their future and are doing things today that will make their dreams a reality...
Whereas the third young man continues to live in the moment of here and now... completely unprepared and unmotivated to prepare himself for the future that still lies ahead.
I’m incredibly excited for Mario and Ian and the bright futures that lie ahead for these two young men.
I’m equally concerned for Jacob and the multitude of others like him. No one can change another person’s direction in life until that person decides for themselves that they want to change.
It’s sad to me that a young man with so much promise has decided to squander his opportunities away while there are so many other young men and women around the world who have no such resources...
... but it is truly his decision and his entire fate remains solely in his own hands.
We all have our hands full... living our own lives... so it is impossible to try and live someone else’s life for them.
Thank you so much for your support of OptiFuse, where we hope to help and inspire all young people to succeed in life and making their own mark on the world.
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