A few nights ago I was blessed with a truly enchanting evening. Fifteen amazing women, all balancing successful careers with full and enriched lives, sat around a table on one of those summer nights that inspires poets to draw analogies between skylines and inks and fireflies and diamonds. The book our group had gathered to discuss, though not my favorite, launched us deep into a harsh look at parenting from both sides of the coin. The fear and, like it or not, the reality of projecting the fulfillment of our own broken dreams onto our children, or them being projected onto us as children.
Inevitably, as every parenting conversation and article seems to go these days the dialogue meandered to the complaining frustration of the “everyone gets a trophy” culture we are self-described to live in. I don’t know if there’s validity in it or not. My daughter did win most improved on the swim team, but my kids do not have shelves lined with trophies.
Valid or not, our American society has definitely defined a shortcoming in our norms over the past couple generations. The poor “millennials,” whose differences from the rest of the generations apparently make them as foreign as an alien species needing to be studied, dissected and explained. I love you NPR, but try to go one full day without saying the word millennial. This anger over everyone gets a trophy seems to be at the heart of the issue of our seemingly flawed society and particularly this deeply examined generation.
So what’s the deal with the trophy, whose loose handing out has managed to bring down the work ethic and hierarchical structure we define our society with? A trophy is an award, a symbol of approval, a public acknowledgement that we’ve done a good job. Distributing this acknowledgement too liberally has somehow threatened to weaken the very meaning of earning recognition.
So what DO you want to be recognized for? What is the trophy in life you’re hoping to earn and what does it take to get there? What’s the lifetime achievement award speech for your business? Now what do you have to do to earn it, as opposed to having it handed to you?
Do the work needed to accomplish what you want and stop worrying about whether Johnny deserved a trophy for perfect attendance as a bench warmer. He’s not holding you back. Earn your own trophy.