Previous month:
August 2011
Next month:
October 2011

7 entries from September 2011

Everybody wins! (Just for showing up part 5)

Part one can be found here and part two can be found here. You can find part three here. Part four can be found here.

This has been a fun series for me to write. I have had a lot of people contact me to tell me how much they agree. I have had some people contact me to tell me how much they disagree. I have enjoyed the conversation. Today I want to talk about what we can do to change this mentality of everyone winning.

  1. Let our kids lose.  It is OK to lose. It’s part of life.  Denying our children this fact sets them up to have to deal with it when we cannot walk through it with them. It is better for them to taste the bitter bite of loss when you and I are standing next to them then it is for them to have to learn how to process it without us. That’s called parenting
  2. Teach honest values. As parents, we need to own our contradictions. We teach that winning doesn’t matter but then we make sure that everyone wins. That doesn’t track as an honest value. That tracks as a lie. Kids recognize that and we need to do the same.
  3. We need to examine the stuff it brings up in ourselves and admit that often it is as much about how we feel when our kids lose as it is about them. When we do things to make ourselves feel better and wrap it up in being about our kids we actually hide from our own emotions. We actually model the exact opposite of what we want to teach our children, which is to be honest about how they are feeling and then to deal with those feelings.
  4. Grab every teaching moment we can. Too often, valuable teaching moments are lost because we fail to allow our children to fail. These are lessons that  will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
  5. Redefine success.  This is one of the areas where I think we miss the greatest of opportunities. We define success one way verbally but define it completely another with out actions.  
  6. Recognize that growth often happens through pain. While this is not a comfortable truth, it is never the less a truth. By trying to insulate our children from the pain of losing we rob them of the opportunity to grow.
  7. Our job is more about preparing our children for the next thing, not necessarily this thing.  Most kids are not going to remember their wins or losses when they are older. They will remember the ability to overcome difficulties (or the lack thereof).

It’s OK if the kids lose. The truth is they will lose. Losing is part of life. Not everyone wins at everything. It simply is not real life.

Everyone Wins! Just for showing up? Points to Ponder style

My friend Michelle Luce sent me an article she wrote on this topic today. In it she shares the following quote.

 “But if you gush over mediocrity, there’s no way to distinguish truly outstanding. If the losers get the same trophies as the winners, what’s the point of even trying?”

~Lisa Earle McLeod

Everyone Wins! Just for showing up? (Part 4)

Part one can be found here and part two can be found here. You can find part three here.

What has been the cause of this idea that everyone should win just for showing up? Certainly, part of it is good intentions. Of course, there is an old saying about the path to a certain hot place being lined with good intentions.

What about our own issues? Have you ever watched the parents at many youth sporting events? It's ridiculous. Too often, the identity of the parents is found in the accomplishments of their children. In part, I think this is because we utilize all kinds of weird and unrealistic accolades to describe youth sports. We tell people that the greatest day of their lives will be this Friday night's football game that no one will actually remember in five years. That is probably a post for another day.

I also think we are a society of extremes. We do not want anyone to feel badly about themselves. In many respects, a proper self-esteem has become a new god. We don't even care if that god is built upon stuff that doesn't actually work. In other words as a commenter mentioned on a previous post, many of the kids know that the just show up awards are not all that significant.

Perhaps the biggest reason for this movement over the last few decades is that we tend to be a society of extremes. Too many people put too much emphasis on winning in the last decade. To be sure, there are still many people who put too much emphasis on winning.

Measuring a person’s self worth based on winning is simply wrong and dangerous.  This “everyone can win just for showing up” mentality seems to be a reaction to that.

But doesn’t it do exactly the opposite of what it sets out to do?

Doesn’t this mentality say that winners matter, but everyone is a winner?

We cannot eliminate measurements and winning. They are a part of life.
I am a trainer for the physical management aspect of the hospital where I work. Occasionally we have to fail someone who cannot physically perform the needed tasks in order for everyone to be safe. They attend the entire training, only to be told that they cannot continue in this job because they cannot pass the class.
Do you want someone who was certified just because they showed up? How about a doctor?

The person who built your home?

Your dentist?

Of course we don’t want these people to be certified simply because they showed up. We want them to be compentent.

This brings up an interesting question for me.
What happens when these people who have grown up winning just for showing up really do lose for the first time. What happens the first time someone says, “no, that’s not good enough.”?

There are so many inherent contradictions in what we are teaching from what we actually doing in this mess.

Contradiction #1. Life is about the journey.

 This is a contradiction because we are saying you have to win (or get an award) to really feel accomplished.

Contradiction #2. Our identity is more than what we accomplish

But you have to have this award (sign of accomplishment to have a good identity)

Contradiction #3. Hard work is its own reward

But just in case it’s not enough let us give you this silly award that half of you are going to laugh at and the other half are going to think is real life.

Contradiction #4. Grades are earned.

But we want you to feel good about yourself so we’re going to take a few points from this A student and give it to the C student because they both worked really hard.

Our greatest failure is that we are attempting to teach that life is fair. It simply is not. When I was an athletic director and coach, I would attend band events. They were raucous affairs, where the trombone and the drums would dual.
They were a lot of fun. Some of the events were very serious affairs.
Do you know that not once did any parent, student, or faculty member come up to me and congratulate me on how being a part of the band? Of course, I wasn’t a part of the band. It wasn’t my role. I can’t play an instrument, sing or dance. 

I was at many of the practices.
I had students pulled out of some classes to do some set up type stuff.

I was still at the school working hard to get many things done. I would have been a bad fit for the band. Still, I’d like my certificate please.

The truth is that sometimes our best doesn’t get us what we want. Sometimes, we try as hard as we can and we fail short. At these times, we need a better plan than everyone winning.

One of my professors in graduate school had us read a paper where there was  a study done that suggested the following results from this show up and win mentality. The paper suggested that there were at least four major negative consequences:

1      Depression and resulting anger

  • We tend to be as mature as we have to be and no more.
  • Part of growing up is learning to adapt to things that we encounter. If we don’t know how to adapt to something because we’ve never encountered it we can become depressed and angry.

2      Fear of trying again

3      Abandonment

  • This can be both a fear of being abandoned and of abandoning whatever we are trying because it is too hard.

4      Lack of resilience.

The biggest complaint I hear when I am doing my consulting work is that new employees cannot be told no. If a rule doesn’t make sense to them, they simply don’t follow it. They want raises based just on showing up. How many times have you heard some one threaten to quit because they didn’t like being told no or they didn’t like being reprimanded? How many times has someone thought they should get a promotion that went to someone else and they threatened to quit? Never mind that there were more people applying than positions open.

Here is my  last question of this post. If everyone wins, everyone plays, etc. how do we learn to cheer for others? How do we learn to celebrate the success of others, even when we fail at it? Doesn’t this mentality create more selfishness? How do you think the everyone wins, you get an award just for showing up and all of life should be fun mentality is effecting marriages and families?

Tomorrow, I will finish this series with some thoughts on what we can do to change this mentality and the resulting problems.

Everyone Wins just for showing up (part 3)

Part one can be found here and part two can be found here.

There is a great scene in the animated movie, The Incredibles. The son Dash is being "encouraged" by his parents. One of his parents tells him that everyone is special. Under his breath he replies, "Then no one is."

We are stuck on this idea that everyone is exceptional, special and a winner.

Of course, if these things are true than no one is actually any of them. Some people are good at math, while others are good at stringing words together. Some people can sing, some can play sports, some can cook and clean. Some people can do amazing things with a pencil, others do amazing things with fire and sand.

Yes, we are all unique. Yes, we are all have skills, talents, and abilities that make us unique. But have we gone to far. Are we creating a generation of people that expect to win just for showing up? Personally, I think the answer to that question is yes.

I have a problem with this mentality. I think it is hurting our society. When I was a teacher, I would hear all the time about the unfairness of life. Student X was upset because she wasn't getting the playing time she deserved. Parent after parent would ask me how their child would get better if he or she did not play in the game. I would get the it's not fair that she or he practices as much as the other person and doesn't get to play. 

My daughter played soccer a number of years ago. She loved it. She wasn't very good. It's not a value judgement on her, it is simply a statement of fact as someone who has coached for a number of years. She might be god some day, but the truth is at this point I doubt it. She did not enjoy running, which is a rather critical component of soccer. She has moved onto dance. She loves it. I have no idea if she is good or not from a critical point of view but I love watching her. I love the ways her eyes shimmer when she talks about dance.

What is interesting to me is that she knew she wasn't very good. She still got the same ribbon as everyone else on her team. Just for showing up.

A friend of mine has a son that played on a baseball team. He batted a thousand for the season and scored every time he came to bat. I have no idea what that would make his slugging percentage but I would think it would be really high. You see, he played in a league where every time a batter hit the ball he or she ran all of the bases. Every time, no matter what. At the end of the season he got an award, just for showing up.

He was ill prepared for the next season when three strikes meant you were out.

When I worked as an athletic director, I instituted rules and guidelines for people to earn a letter in a sport. To that point in the schools history, simply showing up meant you made the team and earned a letter. One of my favorite student athletes failed to earn his letter while his older and younger brother did make it. Two girls on the women's basketball team also failed.

"But they really tried." "It's not fair." "He's really disappointed." "I don't like to see him hurt."

Essentially they could have just said, "Look, trying is enough."

Of course, this isn't really true. What about the people who applied for the same job opening that you did and didn't get it because you got it. What about the people who put a bid on the same house that you are now living in. Do you want them moving in because they really wanted the house?

What do you think? Do you think people are being taught that you win just for showing up? If not, why are you still reading this? :) If so, do you think that is a good or bad thing?

On Monday, I'll begin to explain the problems inherent in the idea of winning just for showing up.

Everyone Wins? Part 2

Does it seem to you like in today’s society, everyone wins?  Do you feel like people get rewarded just for showing up now? Have you heard something like, “Hey the other team outscored you by fifteen runs but we want you to feel good about yourself, so you win too!”?

Yesterday I wrote about how I had a professor in graduate school who  would often ruminate on this idea. Today, I want to talk about what if he was wrong.  What I actually want to talk about is what if he was wrong about the idea that everyone should not win?  Should everyone win?

If everyone should win, aren’t there some other things that should be true too?

  1. First, if he was wrong, there are hours of my life I’ve lost to this discussion. I’ll never get those hours back.
  2. Secondly, if he was wrong  you probably do not want to be his kid. Think about how bad that would be! Think about all the trophies and medals you would lose out on.
  3. If everyone wins, then shouldn’t everyone get paid the same? Shouldn’t the guy who’s put no time in going to school get paid the same as the guy who has done all the training and who has worked hard to learn more? Shouldn’t the woman who is only slightly skilled at her job get paid the same as the woman who is extremely skilled? To be fair, shouldn’t everyone get paid the same just for showing up? Shouldn’t management and labor get the same exact pay? Where do we limit our quest for fairness? Shouldn’t all students be simply given a pass/fail? Forget grades.

Obviously, I think he’s right. I think our society is constantly moving towards an everyone should win mentality. I also think it is having negative effects on our children and society.


Tomorrow, I will discuss why I think he’s right. I’ll offer some anecdotal evidence and some clinical evidence.


Everyone wins. Thoughts on rants I had to endure in graduate school

In graduate school I had to take extra classes because of the institution that I attended. Many of these extra classes were put together in a string. One of those strings was a connection of three theology classes. Normally, these classes would be have been taught by three different professors. Due to a confluence of events, I had the same professor for all three.

Like all things, this had positives and negatives. One of the consequences of this was the fact that as a student I tended to hear the same rants again and again. Doing an unscientific evaluation of my time, I am guessing that about three hours of my life was spent listening to rants about “everyone winning.”

My professor’s basic complaint  was that everyone wins today and that is having terrible effects on our children and society as a whole. He was so passionate about it that often the conversations would spill over into the hallway after class or during break.

This lead to some good questions.

  1. What if he was wrong?
  2. What if he was right?
  3. What are the consequences of it?
  4. What is the cause?
  5. What can we do about it?
  6. Should we do anything about it?

I think this is a worthy discussion for anyone to have, especially anyone who works with kids or has children. There can be little doubt that if he is right, there are consequences. It is reasonable to examine those consequences and ponder their effect on our children.

My next post will deal with the question of what if he was wrong.