Castrating Competitiveness

everyone-winsA couple of decades ago, our society began to do something that I believe has reshaped our kids and caused unintended consequences in the way they interact with others, evaluate their own self-worth, and engage themselves in business. It’s when we started making sure every child received a trophy, or a medal, or a certificate at the end of a season – regardless of that child’s participation level, skill, or impact on the game. Some even went so far that they quit keeping score altogether. All of this was done to try to spare the feelings of those kids that maybe weren’t as gifted in athletics, or played on teams that always lost. I get why they did it, but I don’t think anyone realized at the time how that would impact business 10-15-20 years later.

Companies are now having to reshape their operations and management styles specifically for that generation of kids who are now grown and in the workforce. It is imperative that they receive constant feedback and reassurance that they are doing well and that they really matter. It’s Stuart Smalley on steroids – “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And dog-gone it, people like me.” I’m all for giving someone recognition for a job well done, a pat on the back, encouragement when they might be frustrated, but what we are talking about here goes far beyond that in many cases. We have a generation of workers now that crave and need that fix multiple times a day in some cases.

Now we have a youth football league in California that has decided to fine coaches if they win by 35 points or more.  Again, I believe the intention here was good – but what happens to the child 10-15-20 years from now when we say that it’s maybe okay to win, but be sure and keep it close. Are we taking away from our society drive, motivation, competitiveness, and the will the succeed? Ten years from now, we will think success is being average?

Where does this lead to from here? If a student routinely gets 50’s on their tests, will be instruct other students that they can’t score above a 75 because we don’t want to make that other student feel inferior? When they graduate from high school, and some choose to serve in the military, will we tell our soldiers to win the war, but be sure and keep it close? Will we even have heroes 15 years from now? Will there be no need for record books any longer?

This castration of competitiveness from our personalities, our society, it leads to mediocrity. Long term, this cannot be good.

What is wrong with teaching our children, if you want to be better – work harder? I’v spent the past 8 months with my daughter working with her, pushing her, and helping her because she wants to make her high school basketball team – but some will get cut. She worked out 4-5 hours a day every day – when she felt like it and when she didn’t. I still don’t know if she’ll make the team, but I do know that the bigger lesson is how to work hard and reach for your dreams and goals. It has been my experience that people tend to live up to the standards that are set for them. When we lower the standards, we get less effort, drive, and motivation. Conversely, when we set high goals – we see people work hard and make stronger efforts.

It stinks to lose a football game. It stinks to lose at anything. It really stinks to get blown out – but lessons can be taught and learned in those moments as well. Put away the surgical tools and trying cut this and snip that – let’s dream big and work hard and see where we stand at the end of it all.


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