When I read the article about the Michigan State recruit, Jay Harris, turning down a scholarship to pursue a career in rap, I was of two minds about it. First, you would think that he’d be excited for the opportunity to play for a Division I football program. He obviously has some talent because they offered a scholarship. There are a lot of young men who would give almost anything for a full ride to a major university to play for a big time college program. It is easy to understand why people feel that he is throwing away his future for pipe dream. That was my first reaction as well.
I thought about it and considered the fact that despite his talent, he simply didn’t have passion for the sport. It’s not that hard to garner motivation to play high school football, but the expectations would increase exponentially in college. The focus and commitment required is not compatible with minimal effort, and that is exactly what Michigan State would have received from the young man.
This brings me to a broader topic of the notion of young people following their dreams. I’ve never been one to dash someone’s hope of becoming the next great “______,” and I don’t think it’s always right to direct our children to make the most prudent and safe choice. However, in following a dream, it is necessary to have a strategy in mind and not just go at it in an ad hoc fashion.
The following are strategies young people should employ when setting out to achieve a dream:
Acquire prerequisite skills
If you want to become an actor then understand what it takes to become an actor. Learn the basics of the craft. Become a student and absorb as much knowledge about what you are trying to become. You are setting yourself up for failure if you do not possess the knowledge and work ethic to achieve your dream.
Evaluate all of the options
This is not always an easy thing to do but sometimes throwing caution to the wind is the way to go; however, there are times when it is necessary to move in a more practical manner. Before taking a leap of faith, determine if a leap is necessary or would a steady stroll down a winding path suffice. Maybe pursing the degree first is not the right thing to do, but then again, maybe it is. Really work on looking at the alternatives available before deciding.
Start with the end in mind
This is what sets the stage for strategies 1 & 2. If you know where you are trying to end, then it makes it that much easier to implement the first two strategies. For example: if the goal is to become a stunt person, then you know you must start with fitness and training; and once you understand the fitness and training needs, you can then evaluate the alternatives. You may actually come across opportunities that you didn’t know existed.
Become the subject matter expert
People appreciate those who are authorities in their field. Don’t just stop at learning the basics. Become a master. Set out to become the go-to person in your field. In doing so, you will open new doors.
Know when the journey is over
There will come a time when you will have to face the reality that despite all of your efforts, you are going to fall short. You must know when that time has arrived. If you started with the end in mind, you can determine just how far away you are from your original plan. You can’t be afraid to walk away. If you’ve implemented a good strategy, then you should realize that there are other dreams that are worthy of your pursuit.
You can’t be afraid of failure and one of the benefits of being young is that there is always time to make up for mistakes, as is the case with Jay Harris. After turning down the scholarship to pursue rap, he realized that his rap career was limited to youtube videos with his boys. He returned to college to play football. No, it’s not Michigan State, but he has four years of eligibility. So there is nothing stopping him from working hard and walking onto the MSU field to earn a second shot at playing for the university. If he wants it bad enough, that is.