"Our son's team isn't very good...we're afraid that coaches and scouts are not going to notice him."
"We are worried that our daughter isn't paying attention in class because her peers do not bother to pay attention and, in turn, are a distraction."
"Our child won't read or do any of his assigned work during his free period at school because he gets made fun of by the other students."
It doesn't matter the background of the family, the school, or the team, these instances have occurred over time in classrooms and schools across the US and will, no doubt, continue to be a cause for concern for students and parents alike. The response given to each of these concerned families and students, as well as the action I've directed each of them to take, is actually quite simple to manage. It does, however, (at least at first glance) work against an ideal ingrained in the individual over time, worked into childhood lessons along with basic manners and respect for others.
Be SELECTIVELY SELFISH.
Not selfish. SELECTIVELY SELFISH.
Not simply selfish for the sake of being egocentric and self-centered, tasked to up-heaving all that you were ever taught that is right...No, don't do that. Take a snippet of selfishness, like a page from a book, and choose carefully, realizing that being selfish is permissible at times.
So what is it to be Selectively Selfish? Call it self-discipline, motivation, a strong sense of pride...in summary, this is an eagerness to work tirelessly and harder than anyone else, to achieve your goals and to reach for your definition of success. It's the act of not hearing or seeing what the naysayers in the peanut gallery are saying and doing - ignoring them, and focusing on the end result. It's having tunnel-vision.
This is not over-confidence. This is not hubris. Being Selectively Selfish does not give you the means to be truly selfish - to be rude, indecent, or to hurt others as a method to better yourself. This is, instead, all about You - Selectively Selfish is simply more of: "I'm just doing my own thing." Or, as is popular to say these days: "Do You." This mindset will create positive value for a student, or someone of any age - it will water the seed towards a greater sense of self-confidence and accomplishment. Be mentally tough, have class, and be Selectively Selfish. Maintain respect for others but always uphold the respect you have for You. Be sure to conduct yourself in such a way that you are able to place yourself in a better position (for you future, etc.) in relation to those around you.
In athletics, if you feel that your team has a lousy record (which will happen!) continue to strive towards being a great teammate, work with your team to try to right the ship as a whole, but constantly push yourself to be a better player. Only you can control how good, or how great, you can be. I'm not asking you to become a ball hog or a puck hog, but when the chips are down, that's when your absolute best needs to appear. When teams get down by a few goals (points, runs, etc.) oftentimes they will hang their heads and wilt, not trying, but only merely passing the time until the game's final buzzer sounds. You cannot allow yourself to fall into that trap. Be Selectively Selfish. Keep your head held high, keep playing at the highest level you can, work harder than anyone else in the game...good things can and will happen for you. And you never know just who is watching from the stands.
In academics, while it can certainly be hard at times, you need to do your best to tune out distractions, to ignore the bullies and the name-callers, and to focus on yourself and your studies. You know that paying attention to your teacher is one way to get the grades that you desire and to succeed in the classroom. You know that doing your work to the best of your abilities and in a timely fashion, all while studying constantly and consistently, is the other way to achieve success in your academics - not to mention making you increasingly more intelligent, and ready to take on the world. If the other students choose not to listen, not to study, not to read, write, and overall not participate in school, then so be it. That is their decision, let them live with it. You can only, and should only, worry about yourself. Be Selectively Selfish. The other students won't ask for help because they are 'too cool', or they are too worried about what other students think. Do the opposite - raise your hand, ask questions, develop of better understanding that will serve you now and well into the future.
In summary, don't listen to the negatives of others, don't pay attention to what others are doing, good or bad, and please do not worry about what other people think (though worrying about what people think has seemed to blossom with the growth of social media, a blog topic all it's own).
Instead, be selfish...Selectively Selfish. Do YOU. Live YOUR life. And each day focus on making the right decisions and doing the right things for YOU and YOUR life. You only get one chance...take it and run with it.