In more and more countries around the world, 21st century life is made for as few people to fail as possible. Greater access to educational opportunity, better conditions in the work place, greater access to information and technology. It's becoming more and more a case of emphasizing better individual decisions while suring up institutions which are becoming more and more people centric - and rightfully so. As I've become a bigger fan of American football, as opposed to my childhood love of European football, I observe so many similarities in American football and life. The New England Patriots win 10 AFC titles in a row because they function on the basis of system. Make as few unforced errors as possible, be consistently prepared every game, and make the decisions which place probability in your favor and capitalize. Life is like a game of American football, you play the numbers. Meaning that by doing certain things you increase the probability for success vastly, or at least you ensure that you have secured a basic threshold that puts you in a position to maximize your benefits and minimize your losses. For example, in a country with sufficient opportunity like, an affordable education, whether subsidized or supplemented by scholarships (try as best as possible to stay away from student debt), and a relative framework of institutions which allows for some degree of a meritocracy (making progress on the basis of your efforts and not for eg. your 'connections'); by doing certain things you increase your chances of material success. I’ll suggest doing at least two (2) of the following three (3) things: 1) successfully finishing high school, 2) having a child or children within wedlock (this being amoral – with focus on a child being a potential additional draw on one’s income - with no bias to one's religious persuasion), & 3) saving at least 10% of whatever you earn. I’ll go as far as recommending having at least six (6) months’ income reserved. Now, personally, I’m ever striving to mark all three off of my list, but, just through observation, I've seen those three things increase the likelihood of social mobility drastically.
As a child I remember visiting the homes of some extended family members who had done relatively well (materially) in life. I would go back home to my grandma and ask: "Granny, what does uncle (or aunty) do for a living?" "what did they study?" etc. One hundred percent (100%) of the time, they were always recipients of a tertiary level education. That brings me to my next point. Having a tertiary level education places you in the position of having a base salary that’s above the norm – certainly not minimum wage level. You have a head start. Not just income-wise but knowledge wise. After all, there are skills, knowledge, contacts, and access to numerous opportunities that you benefit from while spending time at Uni.
A Brookings Institute study highlighted the following three criteria for avoiding poverty: 1) at least finish high school, 2) get a full-time job, and 3) wait until 21 to get married and have children.The fact of the matter is that ‘getting married’ is a simple pointer mainly because two (2) incomes are better than one (1). Getting a high school diploma and gradating is beneficial because it opens up more job opportunities. And having children over the age of twenty one (21) ensures that you're more prepared for financial opportunity as opposed to when you're younger.
Sometimes you need to just ‘pound the football’
If you've ever watched NFL football, there are two things which translate well when it matters -running the football i.e. pounding the football, and a solid defense, or better known as Championship Defense. In life sometime you've got to become a specialist in those two areas. And what do those two things demand? Mental and physical toughness! Life is a game of hard-nose, bruising decision-making, the faster and earlier the hard ones are made the smoother the road ahead. Late nights studying till early morning, less parties and time-consuming hook-ups, less alcohol and more time in the gym? It all adds up. The tough decisions are critical pay-offs. Is the immediate pleasure more valuable than the long term sustainability and concomitant pleasure that in all actually will eventually come? Those are the tough questions to answer, and there lies the tough decisions! Consider whether or not you have the mental and physical toughness to play Championship football and go all the way to the Super Bowl.
Love & Blessings!
Mikhail E.D. Byng was born in Trinidad. He is the author of Off the Island and a graduate student at the University of Belgrade. He speaks Serbian and English.
Trinbagonian. Traveler. Believer in God. Believer in Creation. Life long Student. Sports enthusiast.