Win, Lose or Nice Try?

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Image via sportsunbiased.com

Image via sportsunbiased.com

I’ve been watching and I’ve noticed that, in the Olympics, only the top 3 competitors in any given event get a medal.  They all get to have the title of, “Olympic athlete.” They all get cool jackets and other bling from their nations but only the very best get the big prize.  And, for every “losing” Olympian going home with nothing but a great new coat there are countless more who dreamed and worked and gave their all but never got to set foot in Sochi.

In recent years we reached a point in our society where we became so afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings that, in many cases, we stopped awarding prizes for winning and replaced them with lovely “participant” awards.  No winners means no losers and that means that no one ever feels bad about themselves.  Currently it seems like, perhaps, the pendulum is swinging back.  People are speaking out and saying that it’s ridiculous to give an award for showing up.  Winners win. Losers lose. If you were a loser this time… well… better luck next time, but no big trophy today.

Isn’t it true, though, that there really is something to be said for “just trying?”  It often takes courage and strength and determination. You can’t learn or grow if you don’t try.  Sometimes we have to “just try” for a very long time before we are even within view of excellence. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never get there.

Maybe we will never “get there.”  I will never cook like Mario Batali or dance like Martha Graham. Still, there is joy in those activities.  My mechanic will never be Henry Ford but I’m thankful that his knowledge and skill are great enough to keep my old clunker on the road.

On the other hand, excellence should be rewarded, should it not?  Some among us are faster, stronger, smarter, funnier, more talented. Isn’t it logical that we acknowledge their gifts?  Others were, perhaps, not born “champions” but their sheer determination is so far above and beyond the average person that they turn whatever seeds of talent they do have into something extraordinary.

Of course, I’m not talking about telling a pee-wee soccer player he will never play in the world cup because he can’t run and kick at the same time.  But as children get older, as they mature into teens and on into adulthood…

What Do You Think?

Does rewarding those who are trying steal motivation from those who are doing?

Does a failure to be rewarded for effort steal the hope of those who will never “win the gold?”

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

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5 responses »

  1. Great post! I have thought about this a lot lately, because a friend’s daughter recently received an award for “just participating” and her mom was kind of outraged (in my opinion, rightfully so). I get that every child wants/needs to feel special… but then I think about my own upbringing and how I didn’t earn every medal and how it made me want to try harder because there was a level of achievement that came with it. I DID SOMETHING NOTEWORTHY today and not everyone should have those bragging rights. Just my two cents 🙂

  2. Elizabeth, I have thought about this since this morning when I first read it. I still don’t have a real opinion. I suppose I hang out in the camp that everybody does not deserve a trophy. {speaking of children} if we teach them to lose well, while they are young they won’t expect to be rewarded for subpar work. They will understand that hard work and perseverance pays off. I definitely think we can/should recognize those that work hard but don’t win, but it doesn’t have to be with a trophy.

  3. Honestly and maybe I am wrong for this…. but I don’t think “everyone should be a winner.” Sure, give them all the coat (or if we are talking kids, a ribbon that says, heck I showed up) but not everyone should get the big prize. We do not want to teach kids that it is good enough just to show up. We need to teach them to do their very best, even if it isn’t THE best.

  4. I think that while if you have given it your best shot and failed that you (children/adults) should be given a good clap on the back and told good try but I don’t believe in rewarding for just showing up.

    Somewhere along the way we, as a society, lost the passion of trying, of being challenged and pushed to our limits.

    For me, that moment of finally getting it and winning at whatever it is I am trying after failing over and over again is the best feeling in the world. I recently played Connect 4 with my niece and she was getting mad that I wasn’t letting her win( something I firmly can’t stand!). I explained to her that she would never learn to play, to think logically and three steps ahead if I just let her win. It took her an hour and catching me off guard for her to win but she won on her on. The dance of joy and peals of laughter had me grinning from ear to ear. I know without a doubt if I had let her win she would have just gone, “yay” and wanted to play again.

    It’s the same way in life, we may get beat, we may fail but when we do get it, that moment is sweet and more rewarding than any material reward can be.

  5. I don’t have a problem with recognizing when someone gives it their best shot but am baffled with rewarding a half assed performance.

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