Rewarding Underperformers? Ever hear of a participation trophy?!

Who thinks that we should reward underperformance?  Do you think that you should give a tip to your car mechanic when he forgets to put your drain plug back in your oil pan after a service?  Do you tip your waiter/waitress when they take your order wrong and give you something other than what you ordered, exactly how you ordered it?  Do we hand out POBs (Pats on the Back) to our co-workers who show up late to relieve you on watch?  If we don’t do any of these things, why do we hand out trophies to people who didn’t win?!  I’ve wondered about this for a while now, but to be honest, I enjoyed them as a kid.  I think that this probably contributed to me not achieving as much as I could have in life. 

As I was researching for this newsletter post, I came across a headline that truly disgusted me.  This article was in “Men’s Health” magazine of all places, but it reads, “Participation Trophies Aren’t a Bad Influence on Kids Today”.

Not only is this statement untrue in my personal experience, but the sub headline goes even further.  According to the author Jason Feifer, “Anyone who says otherwise can get a participation trophy for trying to stir up controversy.”  I felt nauseated after reading this headline.  To think… that a magazine claiming to be for Men’s Health, would espouse such nonsense and promote such mediocrity in our future men. 

The article uses the basis that these trophies have been around since at least the early 1920s, that they can’t be that bad for kids today.  We’ve had them for decades…. Right?  Well… how have men been performing over those decades on average?  The article then goes on to quote Dr. Kenneth Barish, Ph.D. who states “When you give a young kid a trophy for participation, you’ve encouraged participation—which is what you want,” he says. Little kids don’t understand concepts like winning and losing anyway.”  Why don’t they understand these concepts?  We aren’t teaching our kids about them.  Why aren’t we teaching our kids to be winners?  Because we fear if they lose, they will be damaged?  Because we fear if they lose, they’ll feel bad or we’ll be embarrassed that our kids lost?  This goes back to the fear of failure we talked about in my inaugural newsletter.  The thing that kept me from starting for months and months, fear.  I wish someone had taught me growing up what I will teach my kids.  A loss is only a failure if you don’t learn something from it.  Each loss/failure is a lesson to be learned, internalized, and adapted against.  Go out there and DO THE THING until you have failed enough times to succeed!

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