RULE #111: Not everyone gets a trophy
In recent blog and comment exchange with Matthew I was reminded of a serious issue which I believe as adults you will need to take a stand. The issue that caused the discussion was which actor was the best Bond in the James Bond series of movies. I made my plea for Sean Connery for the obvious reasons of character fit and overall acting, but Matthew countered that each Bond bought their own uniqueness to the character and should be embraced for their approach. I countered that this was a selection of the “Best” in the series and not the an awarding of effort trophies to each of the actors.
I blame Jimmy Carter.
I think next to the Presidency of Jimmy “I struck a deal with North Korea” Carter the greatest failure of the mid 1970’s was the rise of the practice of parents of Generation Y (people born between 1978-1990, basically you my children) to find a way to spare hurt feelings in almost all forms of competition. I personal think its the same conditions that allowed the country to elect a peanut farmer from Georgia President of the United States that helped create this every one’s a winner philosophy.
It started in small ways on the soccer fields across America where slowly the rules that guaranteed equal playing time in the youth training leagues changed to not keeping score, to awarding everyone on the team, every team gets a trophy.
I get that self esteem is critical element to success in life, and that we should encourage everyone to find things within themselves to be proud of, but lowering the bar so that everyone can step over it isn’t the solution. This slow eroding of standards are seen throughout our school systems where our test scores fall further and further behind counterparts in China and Japan, while spending more and more per student. We have built a system over the last decade if a student answers the question 4 x 4 with 17 we give them partial credit for using a pencil correctly, and for getting pretty damn close to the right answer. Our standards lowered to meet our performance.
Penn Jillet, the Las Vegas entertainer, describes this as trend as the”self-esteem movement”. It centers on the idea that if we think we are all better, we will all become better.
In the movie ” The Music Man”, professor Harold Hill ( no relation to us, and thus no royalties in the future inheritance-sorry) uses the “think method” to train the children’s band to learn to play an instrument. The result is a very crudely sounding band that the family members of the children embrace as real music. He basically was proving that if you say bull crap long enough and with enough passion people will start believing it as fact.
I think there are incidents where the participant warrants recognition and praise. For example if a child with a development disability completes a run, or participates in an event, the just participation is worthy of both trophies and praise. Or if a person makes a goal to complete a marathon or other major event the completion itself would be worthy of recognition. But these incidents, which are obvious exceptions to the negative nature of the self-esteem movement are often used to justify the movement itself. The reality is that the world of in general does not need to be taken down to a level of participation trophies, because most of us are capable of far more then just showing up.
I am proud of each of you for character you have each shown and the accomplishments you have done. In your lives each of you have done things which I believe are “trophy worthy” but you don’t do them everyday and on every task.
Frankly as a businessman, husband and father I have failed far more often than I succeeded. In my lifetime I think there will be less than a dozen accomplishments or events worthy of note by others, and I consider myself a very confident person. The rareness of these events are what makes them special, and if everytime a sold an account or hired a new employee I was waiting for a trophy and applause from my co-workers it would make it all cheap and important.
I encourage you to praise and support your childern. Be there at all events, tell them to push harder and dream bigger. But don’t tell them that greatness is found in showing up- make sure they know that it is found in deeds and accomplishments that our truly worthy.
And above all tell them not to grow up like Jimmy Carter.