Keeping it real isn't always the best motto

In the wake of someone allegedly shooting at Jamaal Tinsley Sunday in Indiana and Sean Taylor’s recent murder – as well as this summer’s home invasions of Antoine Walker and Eddy Curry – it’s understandable to wonder about the danger of being a professional athlete.

Athletes are often criticized for carrying guns, but are these examples why they feel the need to carry?

Could athletes eliminate much of the threat by better picking the company they keep and choosing where (or where not to) go at night? Is it even fair to ask athletes to stay away from clubs?

Is it fair to ask them to leave their friends behind? The same people who cared and believed in them before they became successful?

Unfortunately, yes. Anyone who is successful will tell you firsthand that with success, change has to occur. In my estimation that is why most people aren’t successful. They are afraid of change.

In religion they call it blocking your blessings. In sports, it’s called knowing your personnel.

Some people are actually afraid of success because success sometimes requires you to remove yourself from familiar surroundings. Who doesn’t want to be in a place that everybody knows your name?

It’s the same reason why an abusive couple stays together. They’re afraid not of the consequences of their current problems, but what will happen if they do change.

In today’s society, having a gun in the house is acceptable, in my opinion. But if you’re going out and risking your multimillion-dollar livelihood in the less-controlled environment of the streets, you might want to consider hiring a bodyguard.

I totally understand that random stuff happens and that most players and other successful people are targets. But we increase our chances of becoming a target based on whom we hang with and where we go.

Are you more prone to run into trouble if you’re a regular attendee of strip clubs and night clubs, and you have a crew of friends that can’t adapt to your success? Yes! That’s where the madness happens.

I’m not saying that you have to stay home and be a hermit, but you do need to be selective. And even then you can still have problems. The key is bringing along friends who can adjust to your success.

Everyone in rap music screams, “Keep it real!” But do you honestly think Jay-Z has every member of the Marcy Projects still hanging with him? Do you really think that all of Michael Jordan’s crew from Wilmington, N.C., was sitting in Chapel Hill when he went to college? Or, for that matter, now sitting in one of his mansions?

With success comes change, and that change sometimes involves selecting better company. There’s an endless list of superstars, including Mike Tyson, Pacman Jones and Michael Vick, who haven’t been able to make wise decisions. That’s because they’re too concerned with trying to “keep it real.”

I have a new philosophy: Keep it right. It’s one thing to become successful. It’s another thing to maintain that success.