Equal Opportunity - 2015
There is no free lunch... There was a good amount of time between the first time I heard that saying and understanding what it meant. It is saying that if we'd like to be established then we will often have to commit to our craft. To prove oneself is the entry level process of earning respect. However, must everything be earned? Or are there things that we, as humans, should receive as a birth right, with no type of payment slid onto the table? Should respect be given from the eye's first glance? Must we give respect to get it, or give respect to keep it? Maybe for some the answer to that is both. What we do with opportunity is determined by an individual basis and a boat load of other variables. What I would like to explore today is how opportunity should come about and what is required of us to receive opportunity.
The other day I caught wind of it being "National Equal Pay Day" and it made me think of where something like that stems from. When I had a teenage mind, I noticed that the days that America set aside to be celebrated were special; yet, the events or people that we were celebrating on those days had usually gone through a hardship or had to change the way that we operated in the USA. Martin Luther King Jr. would have never received a day if he had not made such a large impact on race relations in America. Independence Day would not be celebrated in July if we had always been separated into states by our borders and our cultures. I was glad to hear that we have a day that celebrates equal pay, but my after thought also tells me that we do not all believe in that.
In my experience, there are things that women typically do better than men and things that men typically do better than women. We must leave room for those times when that is not the case or someone would like to work their way into that not being the case. So what I am discussing is not the outcome, but the opportunity. The same concept that I discussed in "Greatness: Trained or Innate" applies here. That concept of healthy competition breeding greatness. Where would sports be without people like Candace Parker, who was a young lady that could throw it down on the basketball court and entered what used to be a men's only slam dunk contest? Without women like Danica Patrick, that will place themselves into a male dominated sport like NASCAR and manage the doubts, all the while receiving commercial contracts and sponsorships? Where would we be without the male singers who proved that not only women can play in a falsetto range, but it is gender neutral to sing high? All of these people are examples of what a lack of belief and a lack of opportunity will not create.
Not everyone has the confidence that those people do to defy the odds and the critics. Not everyone has Hillary Clinton's drive to succeed in a male dominated profession. It is our job as a society to open those doors of chance, rather than telling people that if they want something to change then they've got to be the one to change it. We are not all leaders by nature and there is nothing more important in the process of life than being who we are, naturally.
I take pride from examples that I have seen in reality, through media, and conversation. Remember the Titans starring Denzel Washington hits me hard every time I see it. I was not alive in that era, so it's unimaginable for me to relate on that level. But I can relate on some level, and my parents were alive in that time and they can attest to the accuracy of the feelings of difference. Denzel nearly single handedly took a group of coaches, a team, school, town, and community from believing that people from different races were not meant to mingle and changed their vision as a whole of what it means to be equal. There was so much strength throughout the movie. What stands out to me was the way that he didn't let his own African American culture believe that they were entitled to act differently because of anyway that they felt disrespected and the scene at Gettysburg (Click for link).
My first season at UC Irvine, John Speraw hired a female assistant on our volleyball staff. Her name was Andrea Becker and as far as we knew, she had no volleyball experience. Did that mean that she had nothing to offer us? To most of us as a team, yes, that is what it meant. She got her opportunity, she worked at her game, she added a psychological outlook, she proved her worth by being there and creating positive change. I imagine that my mind was more open to hearing what she had to say than the majority, but my simpler mind could never have imagined what that women could teach me about becoming a better athlete. Becker won a Division I National Championship that 2012 and is now on the staff of the USA Men's National Volleyball Team. I am forever indebted for the example that she provided. It was all possible because of the opportunity that she received. Change was created by that opportunity, not by that outcome.
If you choose to believe in failure, there will be failure along the way to success. Males fail, females fail, black fails, white fails. It is the only way that we will be forever reminded that we are still learning. When we stop failing is when we stop learning. I was taught a strong lesson in the 100 plus moments that a young lady would remind me of equality's importance. There is no task that is created alone. The opportunity to live a life is created by a man and a woman working together to create offspring. My hope is that overtime, events in business, in sports, in life... that are groundbreaking because of their gender, race, or sex relation become less and less groundbreaking. That way I know that there is an expectation for anyone and everyone to succeed in the craft that they choose because of the fact that they will be afforded that opportunity just for walking up to the plate.
In the greatest programs on earth there are no starters and non-starters, there are no veterans and rookies, there are no CEOs and peasants. There is a group of people putting their card in for the spot and the spot will be determined by what you bring to the table... after your free lunch of opportunity has been handed at the door. Have a nice weekend and enjoy your coffee people.
Chris P Austin