by Dr. Boyce Watkins We all know about Olympic superstar Gabby Douglas. Gabby is now a household name and will probably be one for the rest of her life. She has inspired millions by doing what seemed to be impossible and setting a new standard on how high our kids can fly when they put their minds to it. According to The New York Daily News, Gabby sent a text to her mother a few years ago saying, “gymnastics is not my passion anymore.” She said that she wanted to stop training every day and “be a normal teen.” Being normal to Gabby, according to her new book, meant “getting a job at Chick-Fil-A.” In her new memoir, Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith, Douglas mentions that the big move to Iowa to train at the highest levels was a difficult challenge for both she and her mother. No mother wants to send her child across the country and few teenagers are willing to put in the day-to-day sacrifice necessary to become a world-class athlete. The massive investment the family made into Gabby’s career is what set them apart from all the other families with talent and a dream, but no ambition to pursue that dream at the highest levels. Investments of that caliber are matched by other extraordinary parents, starting with Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena. Tiger Woods’ father, the late Earl Woods, was willing to make extraordinary investments in Tiger in order to make him the greatest golfer in the history of all mankind (putting aside his off-the-course mishaps). Every parent who spends his/her last dime sending their child to an academic summer program is also showing the kind of grit and sacrifice necessary to give that child a chance at greatness. Stepping out of your comfort zone is typically critical to doing something special. One of my friends told me that her son is gifted in math and science. Upon hearing this, I recommended that she send him to the MS-Squared summer program for high-achieving black students in the sciences. She jumped on the opportunity and even though she doesn’t make very much money, she was determined to get her son into that program. The mother told me that even though several mothers at her son’s school were told about the program, she was the only one who applied. The others, it seemed, were too afraid to send their kids away, claimed they couldn’t come up with the money or just didn’t feel like filling out the application. Most of us know people who would rather spend their money on a flat screen TV than to send their kids to an academic summer program. There is no greater dream killer than to train your kids to watch BET in high-definition for 12-hours a day. There is an old saying that “You will never discover new lands if you are always afraid to leave the shore.” The tremendous success of Gabby and her mother is a firm reminder that if you want something different, you MUST DO something different. Had Gabby’s mother been too lazy to fill out the applications or unwilling to make financial sacrifices, her daughter would have been nothing more than a local legend on her high school gymnastics team with access to free chicken. Had Gabby not been willing to stick her neck out, go to Iowa and endure long training sessions every day, we wouldn’t know who she is today. There is another saying which says, “You spend a few years living as no one else WILL, so you can spend the rest of your life living like no one else CAN.” This saying is what got me through eight long and brutal years of graduate school when I had my dream of being Dr. Boyce Watkins. No other African American in the country received a PhD in Finance when I graduated, and it was nothing more than stupid faith that kept me going down this cold, lonely road. But when the sun came out after my battles were over, I looked around and saw that I’d been able to do something that was entirely unique from every other person I knew. I am no Gabby Douglas, but I certainly had many opportunities along the way to console myself with a blanket of mediocrity. Keep this in mind as you raise your children and make decisions in your own life. Talent must be accompanied by day-to-day commitment if it’s ever going to amount to anything. Also, most highly successful people will tell you that it was their willingness to venture down the road less traveled that made them different from all the wannabes. You must be willing to go the extra mile. Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “ Black American Money .” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.