Have you watched The Last Dance recently? If you’re not a fan of basketball, specifically the NBA, chances are you haven’t heard of Scottie Pippen. Born in ’93, I grew up knowing Michael Jordan as the ultimate legend. Basketball is the most sacred sports in the Philippines, like football to many fans across the globe.
What struck me the most while watching The Last Dance is Scottie Pippen. A quick background: he is the only NBA player who won an NBA title and a gold medal in Olympics in the same year twice – in 1992 and 1996. He is a millionaire for sure, but despite all the awards under his belt, he is arguably the most undervalued player in the history of NBA.
Pippen’s background undeniably affected his decision to sign a contract he thought he deserved. As the youngest of 12 kids, with a paralysed father and brother, when you are offered a million dollars as salary in the foreseeable future, it would be without a doubt, the best bet. There was no other safety net knowing that your body is always at risk of serious injury in the game.
How does the Pippen case reflect on today’s reality?
Some of us are Scottie Pippen. I, as a matter of fact, have been a Pippen numerous times – undervalued, risk-averse and nagged by the reality that my family needs the money, I took what was laid on the table.
Our background influences the way we perceive ourselves and likewise, how others perceive us. We sometimes settle for low-ball offers we think we deserve. This becomes a systemic framework and a mindset which are hard to break.
How can we make a change?
For individuals who are in the ‘Pippen’ situation, I strongly advise you to set a plan, a commitment to deliver and surround yourself with allies. The lack of preparation is already stacked against us.
Many people of privileged background possess the said privilege because their families and network have long established it for them to inherit. If you plan to break the chain, be strategic.
What I have learned in my experience is that the best way to increase and solidify your value is to become your own boss. Start small. Become an entrepreneur. Become the opportunity provider.
It is too tempting to at least get your bachelor’s degree, then your master’s degree as early as possible. This is a big lie, a social construct to keep you in the rat race. A university degree does not guarantee success. At the age of 21, I got my master’s degree through a government scholarship - it didn’t have any significant impact on my career.
Also, think carefully before having children early on, owning a car or going on vacation, unless you can afford it. Avoid drowning yourself in student loans or any form of debts! These will trap you in the vicious cycle of insecurity which will definitely make it harder for you to appreciate your value. Focus on improving yourself with a plan in place and with friends, family or mentors who have a positive influence on you and can help you realise your dreams.
I get it – you have to provide for your family. I have been in this situation for 7 years now. If you can impose a limit on how much financial support you can provide, then do it. Save some bandwidth for yourself and for your dreams. Sometimes you will get pressured into giving more, but stay strong! Hold your ground and stick to your threshold. You will thank yourself later for having the courage to say no to endless demands consuming your energy, generosity and bank account.
Beware of toxic relationships and don’t be afraid to cut negative people loose. Give yourself some space to breathe, to be alone with your thoughts and to feed your soul with inspiration and positivity. Keep your allies close. Know when to nurture relationships with people who can open doors in the future.
For business leaders, employers, and others in power to make a difference: the bottom line is, do not judge anyone based on skin colour, accent, disability, gender, socio-economic background or years of experience.
We are still plagued by racism and unfair advantage. We see young people becoming millionaires fresh out of college. What we fail to realise is, that most of these success stories are fuelled by privilege. Let’s not be deceived by a posh accent or by a firm handshake. I can assure you that when a person of colour or of different background meets the job description and has a track record of success, that person is a fighter and a real winner. You never know how many obstacles, personal and professional struggles they had to face to get to that point in life.
My personal take is that if a person coming from a developing country, a poor city or a never-heard-of background managed to make their way into a big city like London, it means that this person has beaten all odds to succeed.
Each and everyone of us has a role to bridge the gap. True equality may not be attainable in our lifetime but if we act now, we may just make the world a better place for tomorrow.
Tips for the young dreams
As a student, I frequently visited sites like Hey Success and Youth Opportunity to find fully-funded opportunities to participate in international conferences and scholarships abroad. These communities have been crucial in shaping my world views and ambitions.
I would suggest to find a challenge that is truly your passion, to develop an idea to solve the said challenge and to find grants or funding online which can support you in realising your project. This activity can either catapult you into becoming a successful entrepreneur or look great on your CV.
Little by little, we can change the world. Let's work together to reinvent how we create individual and shared values, and continuously seek and create opportunities for a better future.