I was walking through the cereal aisle a while ago and happened to notice a box of Wheaties with Michael Phelps on the front and it got me thinking. In the US, we love our athletes. They are on all sorts of products and selling us stuff on TV. We buy expensive jerseys with their names on the back. We pay lots of money to see them perform. Kids aspire to be them. We worship them.
The sports hero worship is detrimental and is pointing kids down the wrong path. A family member who teaches junior high was recently telling me about how many of the kids in her class couldn’t care less about education because they expect a future career in the NBA or NFL. The US culture and media has sold these children an impossible dream. While this is an extreme example, I do think most of us are looking at the wrong group of people for inspiration.
We are living in amazing times. Think about it. 100 years ago, people were still getting around in horses and buggies. Now, consider some of the recent achievements of mankind:
- We carry around computers in our pockets (iPhones) that have way more processing power than the original space shuttle.
- We have flippin’ self driving cars
- We have decoded much of the human genome
- Our lifespans are incredibly long compared to just a few generations ago
- We have eradicated or found cures for many diseases that until only recently, killed large numbers of people
- We have massive information available to us with the click of a mouse and it’s free
- The Large Hadron Collider is unlocking the secrets of the universe
How did all of these great things come to be? I’ll tell you. There are smart, creative people out there who are thinking differently and working their butts off to do great things for the betterment of mankind. These people are the real heroes and are who I want my children to be inspired by.
Here is what I want:
- I want to see a kid wearing a jersey with a picture of an atom/electron cloud on the front. On the back where the player’s name would normally be, it would say Einstein. The number on the jersey would be 186,000 (as in miles/second or the speed of light).
- I want to be able to buy a cereal called Smarties. Instead of some sports guy on the box, we’d see Carl Sagan or Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking or Jonas Salk. On the back would be a description of how this person made the world a better place.
- I want my children to know about the great people of our time. There are so many of them: Elon Musk, Bill Gates, James Watson, Steve Jobs, Jane Goodall, Warren Buffett, Larry Page and Sergey Brin come to mind immediately for me.
- I want kids to come to my house on Halloween dressed like Einstein or Elon Musk. Triple candy for those kids!
What I really want is for my children to grow up to be smart, responsible and caring individuals. I see how much my two young daughters are influenced by external forces that try to tell them who or what they should be. All too often, these forces are in opposition to my principles. I don’t think my daughters need tons of toys, just a few really good ones. I don’t want them to idolize musicians or TV stars or misbehaving athletes; I want them to idolize the lady scientist who was on my flight last week. Perhaps if my daughters saw this scientist on TV or even on a box of cereal, it would nudge them ever so slightly in a better direction.
So, bring on the Smarties Cereal! Free slide rule or Hero Trading Card in every box!!
*Elon Musk was the inspiration for the movie character Iron Man. No wonder why, this guy is amazing:
- First, he came up PayPal which revolutionized how we pay for stuff online.
- He then started SpaceX which just successfully launched a rocket to the International Space Station. Musk does it for a fraction of what it cost NASA.
- His 3rd trick was launching Tesla Motors, the electric car company.
- Most recently, he has launched SolarCity, a company which installs residential solar panels.
It amuses me that one guy can do all of this, but our ridiculous politicians here in the states can’t pass a budget. Elon, please run for president. Since you’re from South Africa, you’re not allowed, but screw it, I’ll vote for you anyway.
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