Not Everyone Gets A Trophy....at James Harrison's house!

Excerpt from Ch. 6 "It's All BS! We're All Wrong, And You're All Right!":

Having high self-esteem does not guarantee great results. There are plenty of incarcerated felons with an inflated self-view. Meanwhile, extremely successful people are known to grapple with a more moderate self-concept.[1]Self-esteem, while highly regarded and often warranted, is not necessary to produce achievement. You, however, are necessary to produce achievement!

Characteristics that are detrimental to an individual and society as a whole include high self-esteem coupled with no appreciable skills or individuals’ beliefs that they can’t truly accomplish anything. If you wonder how this is developed, just drop in on any organized youth ball game. Some “recreational” leagues will stop keeping score if the point spread becomes too big. In other leagues, no score is kept, and everyone is given a trophy.

Or, how about modern birthday parties? A child is invited to another person’s home to celebrate someone else’s life yet becomes upset because there weren’t any party favors. In a society where everyone receives a trophy, a rude awakening indeed comes when some kids later realize that some of those trophies were not actually earned. Once these kids reach the marketplace as young adults, the slap in the face is more profound if all they rely on is how good they feel about themselves versus what value they can provide.

Just being there definitely isn’t enough in high-stakes competition. Just being there isn’t enough at most places of employment. At least people acknowledge your presence in professional sports, but I’m not so certain there are fans lined up when you arrive for your first day at Cubicles-R-Us. Regardless of your job description or your station on the work, play, and life continuum, it’s all high stakes. What do you bring to the table? What’s your contribution? Just being there is easy. Showing up requires having “skin in the game.”

The sleight of hand we want to watch for is when self-esteem replaces self-efficacy. Esteem places emphasis on how one is feeling; efficacy places emphasis on what one is capable of doing. Both high self-esteem and high self-efficacy are encouraged, but if pushed to choose, bet on efficacy every time. Thinking you can and believing you are able is a much better formula for success than just feeling good about oneself. In many cases, it may not feel good to do good; this is where the leaders separate themselves from the rest of the pack. In a family, it is the parents who keep their children at home when all the “other kids” are going to the party. In athletics, it’s the veteran who knows when his time is up rather than continuing to suit up. In business, it’s the person who has the heart to tell a partner or coworker the truth rather than what they want to hear.

In dealing with success and failure, the meaning we attach to both is more important than actually failing or succeeding and the frequency of those occurrences.[2] This is why earned success is important. Those earned outcomes help us derive meaning out of what we do, why we do it, and what we get out of it; however, letting outcomes define who you are detracts from the richness of your experiences. For instance, one can lose and not be a loser. One can be victimized and not be a victim. In work, play, and life, there is a “you’re only as good as your last deal/finish/test” mentality as things become competitive. Sadly, this B.S. may have begun as a motivator but ultimately disenfranchises us from our potential because it becomes too much about the result and not enough about the task at hand.

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, reminds us to focus on the effort. Place value in the work and personal gains made as you move forward. Think of yourself as continually developing or becoming. Feeling good (self-esteem) and doing good (self-efficacy) do not always coincide. Championship moments begin before you accept the check or stand on the podium. I hope those moments extend well beyond you stepping off the stage and cashing your last check. You are enough, my friend. The question you need to answer is, “Do you believe you’re enough despite how you feel at this very moment?”

[1] Ervin Staub. (1986). A conception of the determinants and development of altruism and aggression: motives, the self, and the environment. In: Carolyn Zahn-Waxler et al. (eds.) Altruism and Aggression. pp. 135-164. [Online]. Cambridge Studies in Social and Emotional Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available from: Cambridge Books Online <http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511752834.007> [Accessed 06 April 2015].

[2] Martin V. Covington, “Making the Grade: A Self-Worth Perspective on Motivation and School Reform.”