Ramsey: Get up and change the channel!

When I was a little kid, all the TVs in our neighborhood had a remote channel changer. I remember the three channels on the TV—ABC, NBC and CBS ruled the world. Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley were the deliverers of all truth on the nightly news, be it good or bad.

Shortly before my fifth birthday we bought our first color TV. On my birthday we had a Super-Saturday-Cartoon-in-Color party, so all the neighborhood kids could come see cartoons in color. For a moment, I was popular. The TV my parents bought was the size of a small pickup truck. In those days, TVs were a piece of furniture—a large piece of furniture. This TV was so cool that we ran a wire out the window to a big-time antenna on the roof to increase the quality of the signal. Gone were the old rabbit ears, and the instructions on how to hold them just right by my dad.

But the most groundbreaking, life-changing technology this TV had was a Remote Channel Changer. It was a small handheld device that notified the TV with a “click” to change the channel. The changer was a “clicker,” and that is what we call the remote in my home to this day. This marvel of technology gave hope to all the kids on my street that they, too, could be set free from the drudgery of being the manual channel changer.

You see, when I said all the TVs in my neighborhood had remote channel changers, I was telling the truth. The channel changers just looked like little kids. The dad would position himself after hard day’s work and a great dinner in the recliner. He would then grab the TV Guide, the bible for TV watchers that detailed the times and content of programing. Then as the evening progressed, if the program was slow or even if it wasn’t, the dad would proclaim to the kid on the floor, “Change the channel!” We small children were the remote changers for dads in their recliners.

It’s also possible the remote began the downfall of our civilization. I’ve wasted hours of my life surfing channels. For no apparent reason, I stumble onto a movie I’ve seen six times, and watch it again. Often, I’m not even intentional about what I watch. See, back in the pre-remote age, we watched things on purpose.

I’ve noticed life is like that. I have to do things on purpose if I want to win. What I do on purpose, what I’m intentional about and pay attention to, I win at.

Life doesn’t have a remote. You have to get up and change the channel. When I take the easy path, and don’t make clear, purposeful decisions, the result is mediocrity. When I pay attention to my wife, my marriage is better. When I run a half marathon, I have to focus on training. If I don’t, race day is embarrassing. People who become great leaders, or build successful businesses, don’t do it by accident. People don’t win by accident.

The bad news is my success is up to me. The great news is my success is up to me. Yes, there are systems and prejudices that are stacked against me and you. We can’t control those, but we can control what we pay attention to.

So, what do you want to win at? Business, leadership, parenting, marriage, health, generosity, spiritual growth? You can do it. But you have to get up and change the channel!

Leadership and small business expert Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions and author of numerous best-selling books.

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