How long could you last if you had $100 and were sent to a city where you knew no one?
For me, it would be one night, maybe two, if I could find a cheap hotel near a free food source.
So, the premise is a little outlandish. In fact, it’s probably a show I wouldn’t watch, except for the fact that it’s taking place in Erie, Pennsylvania, my childhood home.
The show is called Undercover Billionaire. It chronicles an experiment where Glenn Stearns, a self-made billionaire, attempts to build a brand-new million-dollar business in 90 days. He is so confident, he brings his own camera crew to Erie. The viewers get to follow his path, his struggles, and his innovative ways to make quick cash.
His ideas, as well as his assessment of Erie and its residents, are fascinating. On the money side, he literally sifts through trash and abandoned warehouses to find materials to resell—and he finds them. He finds a struggling business trying to unload old cars, cleans them up, and patiently waits for the appropriate price. Stearns also does his research on the people of Erie. With locals’ help, he designs a business to create an experience they will like and from which they can all profit. Mostly, his positive attitude, outlook, and drive to succeed are refreshing and fun to watch.
Like all reality TV, the show is a little contrived. He never gets hassled when sleeping overnight in his truck. Small business owners and well-connected people seem to magically appear as needed. Used-car buyers willing to pay top dollar arrive just when all appears lost. But the fundamentals of Stearns’ drive, his infectious positive attitude, and his willingness to listen and adjust without complaining, are really impressive.
I think we, as humans, have a tendency to get really comfortable in our surroundings. When that inevitably happens, we take a lot for granted. We may even complain about some of the things that initially attracted us to our home, place of employment, or town where we live. For example, people complain that Erie is small and old with a faded industrial base. Stearns saw something else. He was attracted to an economy that was new, innovative, and redeveloping. He was excited about the myriad of inexpensive opportunities. He loved the hardworking and unassuming people.
How many things in our school district, our child’s school, or even our child’s classrooms are we overlooking or discounting simply because we’re familiar with them? How many “problems” in our world might others see as tremendous opportunities?
Worthington is a great community. We sometimes seem wired to focus only on the areas for improvement and forget what drew us here in the first place. As a school district, we must strive to improve daily. Let’s not forget to balance that desire to improve with an appreciation for what we have. Gratitude can be transformational.
- Pete Scully, Principal Thomas Worthington High School