What a firestorm of activity on the last post, Penn State Shut It Down Now. I’ve never had a post go so viral, so quickly. There was plenty of outrage and anguish on both sides of the debate. People were discussing who knew what when, who was culpable, and what retribution should be.
Like a lot of you, I was seething with rage at the way the university fell short on this. It’s easy to judge and cast blame, but that isn't why I wrote the post. Judgment and blame don't foster prosperity. And I don’t like to live in rage, but to channel it into something positive.
Yet unspeakable horror happened here, and it was allowed to continue for years, because people looked the other way.
It’s easy to denounce Mike McQueary and think we all would have jumped in that shower and rescued the boy. But if you were a young, new assistant in a football program you worshiped your whole life, and saw an authority figure you looked up to your whole life, you might be distraught and confused too.
It’s easy to say JoePa should have dropped everything and called 911 the second he heard, and we all like to think we would have. But in what would probably be the most tormenting and uncomfortable situation you ever encountered in your life – you might report it to your supervisor and breathe a deep sigh of relief knowing it now was someone else’s decision to make.
It’s easy to condemn the janitors that witnessed Sandusky performing oral sex on a boy for not making a report. And easy to think that you would.
The truth is, until one week ago, Joe Paterno was the most powerful man in the state of Pennsylvania. Even the governor did not wield the power and influence that Paterno had. It is no exaggeration to say he enjoyed a status normally reserved for deities.
And Penn State assistant head coaches in that town are treated and revered like royalty. But if you were a minimum wage janitor with a family to support, and walked in on one of the most powerful people in the state conducting a criminal act…
The police supervisor who closed the case on Sandusky… The other college officials who continued to give Sandusky access to the facilities... The people at the charity who seemed oblivious to what was going on by their founder…
Yes, there are lots and lots of questions that must be answered…
So I’m not defending anyone here: McQueary, Paterno, the police, janitor, college officials or the charity. But I’m not judging anyone, not even Sandusky yet, either. Right now these things are all allegations that have yet to be tried. And America is the greatest nation on earth because every citizen is entitled to a defense in a court of their peers.
Now obviously, on the surface, the situation looks pretty damning. And certainly presented way more than enough evidence that Penn State should have alerted the authorities to investigate further.
Only each of the people involved here know the choices they faced and only each will have to answer for the decision they made. There is a court system charged with sorting that out, and I am willing to let that all take its due course.
I’m not a psychologist qualified to speak on the mental health issues, nor am I an attorney qualified to speak on the legal issues. If I was perfect, I’d be the first one to cast stones. But I’m not.
Frankly, I have enough work running my own life, trying to live it with a congruent philosophy and by the principles I believe in. It is not my place to judge others. There are higher authorities in this realm (and perhaps another realm) that are charged to handle that.
People were faced with difficult decisions and it’s easy to look back in hindsight and condemn the choices they made. But we weren’t there. Let’s not be so quick to judge the people who were confronted with very difficult, gut-wrenching decisions. We are all human, and humans make errors in judgment all the time. At the same time, we are responsible for the errors we make.
And that’s where things really get problematic. Because even if we allow for making a wrong decision initially, why did so many people continue to let kids be at risk? How could Coach Paterno allow Sandusky to maintain access to the football facilities? How could PSU let Sandusky keep running his youth camps on university property? How could the Second Mile let him interact with all these kids after all the smoke that was blowing?
So why did I write the original post, calling for the game to be cancelled?
Because it would have been the right thing to do. Because it would have sent a loud, clear and convincing message that decisions would no longer be driven by football revenues, but by what was the right thing to do.
We are blessed to live in the greatest time in human history. And with those blessings come corresponding responsibility. That means living a principle-centered life and standing up for those who are defenseless, exploited, and abused.
Evil spreads when good people do nothing.
I wrote the first post because of the bigger problem and the real issue here: how those obviously flawed original decisions were allowed to compound themselves, at the expense of those kids who were raped and abused.
Paterno, McQueary, Curley, Spanier, two janitors, a private detective, a couple police officers, the local child protection agency, the administrators at Sandusky’s charity, and the attorney who represented both PSU and the charity – ALL of these people were supposed to be a safety net protecting the children.
How did it all go so terribly wrong?
They gave away their power to something they perceived as being bigger than them. The Penn State Nittany Lions football juggernaut. They ceded their responsibility to live by principles to the institution of Penn State football.
And that’s why I feel the game (and perhaps the season) should have been cancelled. While it’s not our place to judge people, it is vital as citizens (and humans), we judge the institutions we trust to lead us. And particularly the institutions responsible for safeguarding our youth.
And in this case, that institution failed its responsibilities, utterly and completely. And it pains me to say this, since I’m the prosperity expert, but the reason was big money.
Penn State sacrificed those kids on the altar of its $72 million football program.
You know I write all the time about memes and all the mind viruses about wealth. They’re so prevalent and insidious. Trot out of the usual one – money is bad, rich people are evil, it’s spiritual to be poor, capitalism is bad, #occupy this, that or whatever – and they’re sure to fall on approving ears. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
But all those clichés apply here. Because this is what happens when an institution lets money steer the direction.
By all accounts, McQueary, Coach Paterno, Penn State administers, and the people at the charity, police department and social service agencies are conscientious, hard-working, God-fearing people who spent their lives making the world a better place for kids. (Hell, two weeks ago, you could have found dozens of people who would have told you that Jerry Sandusky was on the fast track to sainthood.)
So how could all these supposedly good people allow such an evil atrocity to occur, and continue for 15 years?
The same way Albert Speer bought into Adolph Hitler, the Mai Lai massacre happened, and advertising agencies create cool advertisements to sell cigarettes to kids.
When surrounded by institutions, people sometimes give away their power to them. They lose sight of their personal responsibility and fail to honor the very principles they believe in.
And this is the greatest prosperity failing you can do as a human. Because the good person who fails to live by principles, is as dangerous (or more so) than an evil one.
There’s a lot of talk in the economy these days about entities that are “too big to fail.” In the case of the Penn State football program, we’ve created a program so big it has failed us.
The aura and mystique of the logo, team, national championships, legendary coach and stadium have created an institution that looms as beyond reproach to the average citizen in the area.
The booster drives, skybox sales, and television contracts fuel the football machine, and the football machine is the engine that drives the university. And because leadership was driven by sports revenue concerns, the very principles upon PSU supposedly stood – got lost in the crush.
I read all the comments in the last post: don’t penalize the students, what about the vendors, think of the economic factor on the city. Sorry, I’m not buying it.
I’m not willing to sell out those kids on the basis of economic factors. If you want to live by principles, you have to do it even when it’s difficult, or costs you money. That's why they’re called principles.
Some years ago, I opened a marketing consulting company in Central Europe. My partner called me because we immediately had a big company that wanted to put us on a lucrative retainer contract. I was excited until I learned it was a tobacco company. Now I don't like to turn down $20,000 a month, and at that point in my career, that was a huge amount of money and would have made a major difference in my life and lifestyle.
But there is no amount of money in the world that will cause me to create marketing campaigns to hook kids (or adults) on cigarettes. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a Libertarian. I’ll defend to the death your right to smoke cigarettes, dope, crack, or camel dung. But my principles won’t let me sell it to you.
I can’t save the world. All I can do is live my life by those principles I believe in. And topping that list is personal responsibility.
I realize I’ve been given a platform with influence. And I take that as a sacred responsibility. Now admittedly, it’s an unusual platform. In fact, my publicist, publisher, and even the companies that hire me don’t know how to describe what I do. “Prosperity expert” isn’t one of the categories offered on Linkedin. I don’t even have business cards.
When people ask what I do, I usually reply that I’m a philosopher. Granted, I’m probably the highest-paid, least-educated philosopher you’ve ever met, but that’s essentially what I do.
I author books, conduct seminars, give speeches and write this blog. But I’m not arrogant enough to tell you want to think or do.
I don’t pretend to be an all-knowing being who has solved all the mysteries of the universe. I’m just a guy who started off poor, uneducated, unhealthy, unhappy and unfulfilled. Along the way, I discovered some things that worked, and allowed me to manifest a life of magnificent abundance.
So whether you’re reading my latest book, hearing my latest speech, or watching my YouTube channel, you’re just getting what’s working (or not working) for me at that moment.
My job is to cause you to think. To think about things you may not have thought about before, or in a way you haven’t thought before. You don’t have to agree with me. Just process the information, be a critical thinker, and come up with what works for you.
So here’s what I hope you think about…
Penn State, an institution with unprecedented influence, failed those kids. This is a systemic breakdown, exacerbated with what appears to be a very long and blatant cover-up that occurred when good people lost sight of principle.
People makes mistakes. We all do. The answer isn’t judgment and condemnation. We have to be willing to learn the lessons, strive to do better, forgive, and heal. And yes, each person must be accountable for the actions they take. When it’s all said and done, it all comes back to doing the right thing.
Call me what you will, but I don't believe trotting out the mascot, marching band and cheerleaders to play a football game this weekend was the right thing for Penn State to do. And I’m not buying that playing the game “started the healing process.”
Penn State had an opportunity to do something bold, to make a statement, to start making things right. They could have replaced that game with a rally for the kids who were raped and abused. They could have used it as a platform to teach kids how to protect themselves and how to get help. They could teach parents how to explain these things to their children.
They could have done the right thing or they could choose the $72 million. They took the cash and ran.
Penn State failed us yet again. But that’s on them. The responsibility is still on you and I. We need to do the right thing.
Speak out for what’s right. We’ve got to curtail these college sport money machines from driving all the decisions. We have to look after the kids.
Please. Talk to your own kids today. Make sure they know it’s safe and okay to talk with you if they think something is inappropriate. If you sense your neighbor’s kid (or your neighbor) is being subject to abuse, contact the proper authorities. And if you think the authorities aren’t acting, contact the media.
If you see someone subjected to bullying, cyber-bullying, or sexual harassment, stand up for them. The Internet, social media, and the plethora of news outlets today gives you power.
What happened at Penn State happened because we ceded our power to a huge, all-encompassing Institution. It’s time to take it back.
You’re going to be in situations where it looks like your personal responsibility is no longer required. That is a lie. No matter what your boss, supervisor, club, school, government, or any organization tells you, you never have the right to relinquish your personal responsibility. Some time you may be required to become that “majority of one.”
In my church, we end every service singing a song. It begins with the words, “let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
Darkness can never stand against light. Evil can never conquer the power of good.
The way you help those kids – and everyone and everything else – is to live your life by principle. And never bend those principles to conform with outside pressure. That is where your power is.
Take it back.