Reframing Success in a Trophy Hungry Society
Day 1 Camp Lecture Series
US Culture is big on success. BIG on success. Culturally we put a lot of
stock into winning, getting A's, being the best, condemning failure, and
quitting activities we "don't see a successful future in."
I am putting our view of success on notice. And I hope you do to. By only
valuing a Gold metal outcome, we limit ourselves to only things we IMMEDIATELY do well. And this is the problem. This limits our world. This makes us anxious nut bags and ultimately makes us feel either, awful or worse, superior.
We are so caught up in trophy mentality that we even demand to be validated with prizes when we suck. And we assume if we are TERRIBLE at something, we must be terrible people. That sucks.
A rewritten view of success ought involve our ability to prevail in the face of difficulty and failure. Failure is a part of the learning process. We fail to correctly identify the letters of the alphabet over and over again. This is ok. This is learning. Nothing comes magically, even to those people you are strewing over and calling "gifted" in one aspect or another. "Gifted athletes" are only successful because they felt good as a result of those first dribbles, hits, and sprints. They got feedback that they were good. We praised their success. And guess what? That encouraged them to keep dribbling over and over again, until they legitimently had a better skill than you or I. But the same would happen to most people if we reframed success.
If you are coming up with NBA, NFL, UFC, and Olympic names to argue with me, please stay focused. Of course, DNA varies greatly among humans. Some will be anatomically, intellectually, or socionoeconomically set up for greater successs. But I feel the 1% gets enough attention. Let us remain focused on the other 99%.
If we reframe success to reward dedication, hard work, problem solving ability, frustration management, team work, cooperation, and being coachable, we will have more kids and adults changing the world instead of changing prescriptions to avoid feelings of inadequacy. Your kid doesn't need a damn trophy. And that is ok. They can be the worst football player ever. And that shouldn't wreck their self esteem. Or yours either. You aren't raising an Olympian and your kid doesn't have a 140 IQ. And that is ok. Are they working hard? Are they learning? When they mess up, do they problem solve ways to improve Are they encouraging others? Are they speaking kindly about themselves? If that is the case, sound like football is their thing.
Parents, we have the ability to crush our children. And only praising them when they "win" is a good way to crush them. They will grow up avoiding failure like the plague. They will only feel like they are loved when they beat everyone else. They will lie and cheat to be 1st. And those people are A-holes. Don't raise an A-hole.
Conversely, don't coddle. When your child isn't putting in effort, you or their coach, or teacher, should let them know. I am in no way saying let your child settle for mediocracy. What I am saying is, they are being extraordinary and you are missing it. You are missing how they saved a bug from being trampled but missed a ball. You are missing them create a community of friends and great memories because they aren't
starters. You are missing them talking to the coach about possible plays because their sprints weren't fast enough. Demand your kids be "better than good." But don't limit what "success" means.
In the word of Chaos, "If you aren't failing, you aren't trying hard enough."
Let's raise kids, coach kids, and educate kids, to be thinkers, problem solvers, and good humans.
If they happen be better athletes as a result, so be it.
Lots of love,