At a recent board meeting of a not-for-profit, we discussed privilege, luck and fortune. I was reminded of a video I’ve seen where the players on a high school football team were lined up on the goal line when their coach prompted:

“Move to the 10-yard line if you were raised in a two-parent household.” 

Half the team moved forward and half stayed back. Then he said:

“Move 10 yards forward if you had more than 5 books in your house before you started kindergarten.” 

A few of the players moved from the goal line to the 10 and a third of the group on the 10 moved to the 20.

“Advance another 10 yards if both of your parents attended college.” 

At this point, most of the team was behind by at least 20 yards, with a third still on the goal line. The coach then asked the players who had advanced the farthest to turn around and face their teammates. You could see embarrassment and even shame on all the players’ faces, those who had not advanced and those who had. The coach let a little silence linger as the students processed the scene. Then he said this:

“Nothing you did, nothing that was a decision you made is the reason you are where you are; you are where you are due to good luck, bad luck, a roll of the dice. My question to each of you is, what are you going to do? What is in your power, what are your choices in your situation to get you where you want to be? And, if you’ve experience good luck, what are you going to do to help others less fortunate and let go of any ego-driven thoughts that you had much, if anything, to do with where you are based on the questions I asked?”

Watch this video for another coach’s take on this lesson.

I wish everyone would take the time to consider where they are and what has influenced how they got there: luck, good or bad, choices or their mindsets. I am very aware that everything I have that is meaningful to me is related to someone’s kindness, generosity or my own good fortune. Sure, it’s our decision to take the offer and the offer is what we ALL have to give.

What can you provide in words or actions to help someone, metaphorically, move 10 yards forward? An introduction, a private moment with a co-worker to share respectful feedback, a willingness to listen and brainstorm – these are all examples of simple acts that can open a door, shift a mindset or move someone to the next phase of their evolution.

– Becky Sharpe, CEO