Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Another guy who didn't want it enough.

During a speech today at the unveiling of an exhibit in his honor, legendary Temple University basketball coach John Chaney felt obliged to trot out the familiar Sportsthink mantra: "You can be anything you want to be," he told the crowd.

I did some research on Chaney. Without question, he has enjoyed an enviable career--a charmed one, really. Despite his occasional on-court detonations, he's an American icon, certainly in basketball circles. But wouldn't he have rather been Michael Jordan? In fact, despite a distinguished career as an amateur player, John Chaney never made it to the NBA. Isn't that something the man might have "wanted" to do? This isn't hair-splitting; I'm just taking Chaney at his word and putting that word to the test, using him as a guineau pig in an experiment of his own design. Remember, Chaney isn't saying that "you can have a great life if you try" or merely that "every person can probably go farther than he thought he could" (both of which I dispute anyway). He's leaping to the ultimate promise: You can be anything you want to be!

Well, sorry, but no you can't. In his own life, Chaney, at least, got close. (That is, I assume he did. For all I know he might've wanted to be president, as a young man.) How many others, seduced by that promise, will "die trying"--spiritually and emotionally, if not literally?

10 comments:

Cal said...

Steve,

I can't agree with you more about the mantra of "you can be anyhing you want to be as long as you put your mind to it" garbage that so many try to follow, only to ultimately fail along the way. The argument lies in the changes that occur along the way towards a career. The fact is that what many of us start as a profession more often than not, does not end up being a career. Some of us are lucky enough to find a job that does become a career, but many of us leave, and when we leave our goals and aspirations within that field or industry change. Steve, you are probably right about John Chaney wanting to play in the NBA and as we know that didn't happen. What probably did happen is that he realized that he wanted to stay in sports, specifically basketball, which then became his career and it molded some of his new aspirations within that profession until it ultimately molded into his psyche that that was what he always wanted to do. The fact remains that so many things change in our lives and events happen that change what we may have thought was well planned out. With those changes plans change and when plans chnage I think aspirations change.

Rodger Johnson said...

You know, this - "you can be anything you want to be" - is crap. And it's one of the BIG beefs that I had with the message a marketing campaign was communicating to inner-city students at a community college in Indiana. (I'll conceal the name here.)

Because of the message, enrollment increased, but the quality of students decreased over time.

When I got a student who wouldn't put the time into learning basic fundamentals of writing -- didn't see the point in my assignments -- but was fascinated with being a successful student, I asked him a very important question.

How do you plan to be a successful student if you don't work, work hard?

We can be what we want to be, within reason. That's the key...reasonably assessing our desire to be X, and then assessing our tools and the obsticles to achieve X.

For example, I had a girlfriend in college who wanted to attend Brooks Institute of Photography. For anyone who cares, that's the Harvard of photography schools.

Being a third party to her decision, I saw that she had some major obsticles to overcome. I also saw advantages to using the resources available to achieve her goal.

Unfortunately, she never became the photographer she wanted to be. But she's one hell of a graphics designer.

The point is. It's okay to take chances. Failure teaches us alot. But realizing our true comfort in life, our true success in life is doing what we're good at. And doing it well.

The good Coach is good at coaching, and his effort has probably propeled many young athletes to NBA stardom -- his success is his legacy.

Steve Salerno said...

Cal, great to have you back! You always added a lot to the blog, and "we've" missed you.

Look, everybody understands what Chaney is trying to say (or "trying to achieve" might be a better way of putting it), but the fact is, we've got a paradox here. The statement only has inspirational meaning if you take it literally; as soon as you start conceding "well, it's a metaphor, you can't REALLY be ANYthing you want, but you can at least TRY," it loses its value as a motivational tool. That is in fact the fatal crippling irony of almost all SHAM dogma: In order to resonate, it must be taken at face value. And yet if you take it at face value, it's plainly absurd....

Cosmic Connie said...

Those in the new age / metaphysical community use the "you can be/do/have anything you want" mantra too, of course. They may use more lofty or abstract terms such as "envision" or "imagine," but the message is the same. For them, it's a variation of the old "you create your own reality" mantra. (And I've bitched before about the way many misuse concepts from quantum physics to "prove" their points.)

Whether the message comes from business hustledorks, sports hustledorks, or new-age hustledorks, it is the same. They continue to repeat it because they know it's what people want to hear (duh). It's a message that sells books and expensive seminar tickets. And it gets people to enroll in programs they would never enroll in otherwise.

And Steve, your continued refusal to buy into this stuff only assures that you will probably never fill stadiums with thousands of starry-eyed bobbleheads who hang on your every word. Something tells me that would make you sort of uncomfortable, anyway. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Hmmmm. CosCon, are you saying that I impress you as a...loner? Curmudgeon? Sociopath...?

;)

Never fear. As long as I keep taking my meds, I'm fine. And relatively harmless.

Rodger Johnson said...

CosCon,

Steve has already had the bobbleheads knodding in awe of him.

When he taught at IU, that's where I met him, a handful of starry-eyed journalism students -- me included -- thought he was a rock star. A god, even :)

But he's right about keeping on those meds.

*************

Back to the topic of the blog...

I just don't understand why people buy into SHAM.

Is it their own insecurity?
Is it a cultural by-product of the American culture? I mean, we are known as the land of dreams.

I think SHAM is interesting to read, humorous even. Like the Dr. Phil life law -- you teach people how to treat you.

I have a Dr. Phil book -- Life Strategies. That's my dirty little secret.

Cosmic Connie said...

No, Steve, I wasn't suggesting you are a sociopath or a curmudeon...well, maybe a curmudgeon once in a while, but considering what you have to deal with in battling SHAM, I can't blame you. What I was trying to say is that you impress me as a person who would be uncomfortable having thousands of worshipful nodding-head followers like some of the motivational gurus whose names I will not mention here.

On second thought, it might be nice to be worshipped by millions. That is certainly my goal, LOL.

rodger johnson said...

CosCon,

Steve has already had the bobbleheads knodding in awe of him.

When he taught at IU, that's where I met him, a handful of starry-eyed journalism students -- me included -- thought he was a rock star. A god, even :)

But he's right about keeping on those meds.

*************

Back to the topic of the blog...

I just don't understand why people buy into SHAM.

Is it their own insecurity?
Is it a cultural by-product of the American culture? I mean, we are known as the land of dreams.

I think SHAM is interesting to read, humorous even. Like the Dr. Phil life law -- you teach people how to treat you.

I have a Dr. Phil book -- Life Strategies. That's my dirty little secret.

Cosmic Connie said...

Don't feel bad, Rodg. I have a Tony Robbins book. And I also own select other works from other motivational professionals. I use them for...um...research.

Krista said...

Given that when Chaney was playing basketball, the NBA maintained segregation so it was virtually impossible (yes, there were a handful of exceptions) for an African American to break into the sport, I'd say that kids today have a heck of a lot more opportunities than he did.

I suppose I don't get why you think positive thinking is part of the SHAM mentality - particularly when there have been numerous studies that show that positive talk/thinking improves sports performance. See http://www.psichi.org/pubs/articles/article_89.asp

Chaney'd make a lousy coach if all he did was tell his kids that they were a bunch of losers who won't amount to anything.