“Oh, that’s okay Johnny don’t feel bad.” That’s what a little league baseball player’s mother said after her son struck out with the bases loaded. I was an assistant coach at the time, back in the eighties, and said to her, “If you don’t allow him to feel badly after striking out, then you’re not entitled to let him feel good if he hits a grand slam homerun!”
She couldn’t believe what I said! You should have seen the expression on her face! My lesson was simple: feeling bad and feeling good are part of life and failure and success are part of life. They are not to be judged, they are to be experienced and embraced. I don’t know why baby boomers felt it necessary for our kids to get trophies and feel like winners even if they didn’t win?
The result of this has been a lack of understanding and respect for what it takes to be a winner. My father’s generation raised us and said “suck it up.” So, big deal, we didn’t get our way and didn’t “feel good” all the time. We learned that life doesn’t always go your way and that feeling bad is part of life. We learned to get over it and move on. And we also learned how to work hard and be proud of our work. It made us feel good without drugs, drink, or unearned accolades.
There was also another lesson from the greatest generation which is expressed in the proverb: “Give a man a fish and he won’t starve for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he won’t starve for his entire life.” I learned another lesson which was that those who are most successful in life are those who forced themselves to do the things that other people didn’t want to do. Call it discipline or whatever. But winners generally work harder and study harder than others!
Entrepreneurs know that lesson. They know about making the cold calls, working 24/7, being betrayed by employees, sacrifices of time, health, money, and whatever it takes to keep your commitments to yourself, employees, and customers! Moving forward when you feel like quitting and so on. Building something! Contributing! Standing proud!
Baby boomers failed to create a “feel good” culture for their children because feeling good requires personal responsibility and pride in achievement. That’s the hypocrisy of a generation that said “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, rather it is how you play the game.” If they really felt that way, then a trophy was unnecessary. Actually earning that trophy is what feels good, not the trophy.
© 2013 Steven M. Stroum