Opportunity knocks

By Dr. Manuel A. Escalante
Published on LatinoLA: June 3, 2009


"Opportunity, better education, higher wages, better jobs. . ." These are but a handful of the myriad "rights" minorities claim others have and not they.

First, let's define "minorities." Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines "minority" as "a part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment." Each mind is a universe; each home and family is a world of its own; every school is different in some way; no two companies are exactly alike. Each of us, as individuals or as part of a group, have characteristics that differ from others - in light of Webster's definition we are all, in some sense, "minorities": we're at the top of the class, or the bottom of the class; we are professors of business, or lawyers, or plumbers; we are skinny or fat; we are tall or short; we are from a poor neighborhood or from a middle-class neighborhood; we are minorities in some way, shape, or form.

Now, allow me to define "opportunity." It is a temporary intangible that knocks on every door. It is not unlikely for it to knock a number of times, until it gets tired of being ignored, and then moves on. When it becomes tangible, it takes any form that our dreams, desires, or goals give it. Opportunity is what comes along when we are spiritually, mentally, and physically prepared to receive it. It is not a "lucky break." It is not a "handout." It is definitely not a result of what someone else did for me.

I get a sour aftertaste whenever I hear all the "lacks of. . ." that we minorities are burdened with. We need to stop pounding on an absence of opportunity, on racism, on prejudice, on everything that everyone else gets and we don't. Success and opportunity are completely blind to self-serving excuses. They see no color, no race, no gender, no creed, no age, no "negative past." They do not conduct research to determine demographics, geographics, or psychographics. They do not conduct wealth analyses or economic studies to determine their target market. They will, and do on a continuous basis, visit every single inhabitant of this planet. If the inhabitant being visited does not have a dream or desire to succeed, all the help in the world will be of no help at all.

Examples and role models abound. Can anyone, with any sincerity, claim that Cubans in Miami are a "minority"? Of what ethnicity, race, creed, etc. are a good number of Miami's businesspeople and politicians? Let's turn to San Antonio - I guess Henry Cisneros must not be a minority because he got a "break." Is Dr. Cisneros not a successful and respected individual, under any standard of measurement? And, what about Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles? Isn't the job of mayor supposed to belong to a typical WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, for those who forgot)? What about General Colin Powell - if he's black (or Afro-American), why then is he among the most powerful men in this nation? I won't even mention our president and the First Lady.
Let me continue: Jaime Escalante, Gloria Molina, Edward James Olmos, Ricardo Montalban, Anthony Quinn, the Estevez clan, David Liz?írraga, Gus Machado, Eduardo Caballero, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Carlos Santana, Jerry Garc?¡a. And certainly, Jorge, who has cut my hair for the past fifteen years.

I wonder! Under what piece of Heaven were these people standing when it opened its gates and showered them with "good fortune," with "a break?" And, has Heaven suddenly closed to a majority of common folk? Perhaps Heaven's analysis of its research indicated that no "good luck" was to be wasted on Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Salvadorans, Afro-Americans, Chicanos, Brothers, Sisters, people of religious sects other than the one to which "I" belong, homeless veterans. . . you finish the list, please.

Disgusting, isn't it? But "they" started the whole thing, not "me."

Though there are many among us who truly inspire and lead, there are many more who take advantage of every opportunity to upset the balance of nature and to stunt the growth of every human who feels slighted and who doesn't know that the entire world is a sack of "breaks."
We write our own ticket. Life will pay what we ask of it. All life asks in return is that we be moral and decent human beings who have something to offer our fellow world-inhabitants. Life asks that we prepare ourselves for the opportunities it sends our way; that we have goals, that we have true and healthy desires.

In the words of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (You'll See it When You Believe it), "We should be conscious of abundance and prosperity and not make scarcity the cornerstone of our lives." It is in our hands to succeed or to fail. It is in our hands to get the "breaks." Henry Ford succeeded with only a sixth-grade "education;" Helen Keller is known by everyone - she was deaf, mute, and blind. Beethoven was deaf. Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles (was) and Jos?® Feliciano are blind. Abraham Lincoln failed at everything until he was past forty. Tom Dempsey, born with only a stub for a right arm and half a right foot (being thus forced to wear a wooden leg), to date holds a world record: he kicked a record-breaking 63-yard field goal, giving the New Orleans Saints a win over the Detroit Lions. I just overheard the news about the most popular doctor in China - I didn't get his name, just the fact that he has no hands.

And we've got problems? And they're someone else's fault and responsibility to correct!? It's time we took responsibility for ourselves. It's time minorities got off the "let's feel sorry for us" wagon. Some of us are thinking and looking and listening and doing; some of us are just standing in the way waiting for someone to tell us to do this or that - we do it without questioning reason or logic (L.A. riots, if you recall, as an example). Then, of course, the justification: "We are an oppressed minority. Give us opportunity, give us a break, give us hope, give us, give us." AIDS is not nearly as deadly as the GIVEUS disease.

We as minorities have a lot of muscle; we have power. Along this vein, let's remember Theodore Roosevelt: "Power undirected by high purpose spells calamity; and high purpose by itself is utterly useless if the power to put it into effect is lacking." High purpose has always been available. Power is in our hands. It's time to put these two together; it's time to combat the GIVEUS disease with a big shot of UPTOME antidote.

As we think, so we are. If I think I'm oppressed, then I am. If I think I have no opportunity, then I don't. If I think I'm a loser, how can I win? If I see others through my eyes of self-deception, how can I make a positive contribution? If we are to be respected and heard, we must first respect ourselves and listen. We must take a stand against our GIVEUS attitudes. We must convince ourselves that it is not the fault of "society" - we are society. We need to understand that it is not the fault of the teachers or of the school system if we don't learn; an unwilling pupil, with uncaring parents, will fail to learn even if under the tutelage of Jesus Himself. It is not always "those people" who deny us jobs; it is we who deny ourselves the possibilities by not being prepared - why must someone give me a job if I have nothing to offer in return?

We need to transfer our energies from GIVEUS to UPTOME. You don't like your life? Do something about it! Whoopie Goldberg got herself off the welfare lines years ago. She didn't say "give me," but rather made a stand, set goals, envisioned dreams, had faith and persistence, prepared herself, worked hard, and attained success. I am what I am because I choose to be so. If I don't like the negative labels people have put on me, then I must show that I am not deserving of negative labels. The world is definitely in a mess and I would like to change it, but if I am to do that, I must first change the man in the mirror.


As we discussed earlier, it is not "they" who are at fault for our lacks of; it is not with "them" that our success rests. Attributing the cause of our situation to someone else relieves us of the responsibility for our condition. If others can control when and if we feel angry, happy, or stupid or anything else, they, in effect, control our lives. As long as we accept, without question, the power of others to determine our lives and feelings, we perhaps abandon any chance of controlling our own lives.

What we need is a strategy - a strategy for our studies, a strategy for our career, a strategy for our lives. We need to conduct some strategic thinking and planning to reach what I call "An Excellent You". Strategic thinking is nothing more than an exercise in picture painting.

We need to ask ourselves questions such as "Where am I now?" "What is my purpose?" "Where am I going next?" "What will the payoff be for the time that I am investing?" Answers to such questions will be the material we use to begin painting our picture, to begin creating our vision.
We want to see how we will look sometime in the future; this is what we call a "vision." This vision will allow us to achieve, not just accomplish -- Getting something done is an accomplishment; getting something done right is an achievement.

We accomplish when we study the material and get As or Bs on the course. We accomplish when we produce the employer's desires on the job. We accomplish when we manage to pay our bills at the end of the month. In other words, we can accomplish when the focus of our studies, or job, or life is strictly limited to keeping up with immediate demands. We may excel at accomplishment; we may, however, be achievement deficient. We may be living for today, for the moment. And, like it or not, most of us suffer from this condition. In our world, we all know the story of the many people whose jobs or careers have no link whatsoever to what they prepared for in school. They may have graduated with honors - accomplishment, but operate in entirely different circles - no achievement.

Thus the need for developing An Excellent You. Strategic thinking will provide us with a view of the qualitative aspects of our studies, our jobs, our lives. Through the process we find a vision and define a strategy for our future. That vision then becomes the focus of all our activities and efforts. People who want to be successful in the years to come must have a vision. Life will lead us in any direction we choose; not choosing is also our choice. We cannot expect to become individuals of achievement unless we can clearly define where we are going; we can never expect others to follow us unless we can clearly define where we are taking them (and those that do follow us without a plan are very foolish indeed -- imagine not knowing where you are going and following someone who doesn't, either).Before we set off on our mission of achievement, we need to clearly determine where we stand today. If we want to become, whatever that become may be, we must know our point of departure. Where am I? What do I know? What am I learning? What type of person am I? What is my attitude toward others who are like me or different? What type of people are my "friends"? What things am I doing that are keeping me where I am? Join me; let me help you.

Dr. Manuel Escalante (Dr. E)

About Dr. Manuel A. Escalante:
Dr. Escalante brings a global, hands-on approach to marketing and consumer strategy, and has been a featured speaker. He serves, or has served, on various Boards and has taught extensively abroad and in the states.
Email the author

   print this


Arts & Entertainment Comunidad Forum People El Editor's Blog

Careers Expresate Hollywood Tecnología RSS Feeds