What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Make Plays

I had a football coach once in college that probably doesn't realize how influential he and his one mantra were on my life.  He was my position coach for a year and he beat into our unit's heads and bodies everyday to "make plays".  If the ball was in the air, don't wait for it - go get it!  If you needed to block someone, don't sit on your heals, dictate the situation, make the block.  Running pass routes, lifting weights, studying the playbook or the text book - make plays, make things happen, don't wait for or allow things to be dictated to you! 

This has stayed with me my entire life.  I used it when I was a coach, I've used it in my personal life, and I've had no choice but to use it since I returned to this country and have been trying to set up a life.  You have no choice here.  There is no one here to help you, and despite what the "anti-entitlement" crew thinks, there is no real safety net helping me do much.  There isn't anyone helping me get a job and there isn't anyone really creating or even working to create jobs.  The politicians just bicker and politic circles around each other and the country.  Business owners are looking out for themselves and a bottom line that doesn't factor in all the stakeholders their collective success - managers, workers, communities, consumers, etc.  This country is in as much of a cultural downturn as an economic down turn.  I see a lot of that as systemic and am struggling to stay hopeful that it will change and go anywhere or help people such as myself anytime soon.  So we have to do what we can to try to make things happen.

This may sound simple, pull up my bootstraps right?  Ok, so I wear vibrams, they have toes and there are no straps - sorry, times have changed since we were out on the frontier and had straps on our boots....  Making things happen these days requires more than just one person.  I can't do this all on my own, and everyone who know me knows I've tried!  I've done all sorts of things from packing a bag and going to Africa to fill a resume and create opportunities, to trying to start small businesses, to volunteering in local government, to starting a non-profit in Africa and making a life out of taking risks aimed at making things happen.  But starting businesses, non-profits, and your own things require money, financing, partners, know-how and expertise.  Tough things to find for free in America.  It is one of the things that I love about the Occupy community.  They work together using principles of mutual aid and community.  It is tough to find that throughout the rest of my world right now: people working together selflessly to try to make profound things happen.

Sadly though, it will not help things immediately for me.  I have to create an opportunity here in New York City.  I have to make plays here.  I have to apply for jobs, I have to network like my life depends on it, I have to go up and get the ball.  We all do. 

The saddest thing right now though, is that there is only one ball in the game.  And where it used to be eleven people vying for that ball or job, now it is 500 players vying for the same ball.  It's almost as if we went from playing on the field, to sitting in the stands and betting our lives on the chances of catching a foul ball at a baseball game.  Slim to say the least.  So what is left to do but go out and make plays?  The question is, what plays do you make.  Do you sit in the stands with everyone else hoping to be in the right place at the right time and hope you can out-jump everyone?  Or do you try to go to the source?  Think strategically, ahead of the game, to innovate and change the game?

"Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation causes your worst fears to come true."

At least we can try.... 

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