Here’s Your… Trophy!
Comedian Bill Engvall has a video titled “ Here’s your sign.” The concept behind his comedy bit is that if stupid people wore signs indicating that, then we smarter people wouldn’t expect much from them. We certainly wouldn’t rely on them.
In the video, Bill encounters a number of people doing stupid stuff, and he rewards them with a sign that says “I’m stupid.” It’s a very funny sketch (I think so, anyway), and it illustrates the frustration people have with others who are unable to understand or comprehend their situation.
We don’t make people who earn the sign “I’m stupid” wear one, but, stupidly, we allow people who haven’t earned a ribbon or trophy get one. You know what I mean. I’m talking about the oft-disdained-but-hasn’t-reduced-in-number “Participation Award.”
Whether it’s a certificate, a ribbon, or a trophy, participation awards recognize people just for showing up. You don’t have to win, place or even show up to “earn” an award these days. You can ride the bench and never get into the game — and still get a trophy.
These days it seems important to recognize everyone and insure everyone is treated equally. We all get a ribbon, regardless of status. (Everyone in an organization gets a certain percentage raise, regardless of effort or expertise.)
After all, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game, right? Or THAT you played the game. Or maybe just signed up to play the game.
Bullshit. You and I both know better than that, and we know better because we’ve all tasted defeat from time to time. We’ve had feelings of inadequacy. We’ve failed at something when we really tried to succeed.
In sports, business and life, some teams, individuals, and companies come in first, and some teams, individuals and businesses come in last, with everything in between. We all want to be first — because no one remembers who comes in second.
You know it’s true. Try this exercise on “2nd place” (no sports references):
- We know Neil Armstrong was the first “man on the moon.” Who was the second person to set foot on the lunar surface?
- Sean Connery was the original “James Bond” in the movies. Who succeeded him as Bond #2?
- We were taught in history class that Ferdinand Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the globe. Who followed in his footsteps as #2 around the world?
And the questions could go on and on. We can often name #1, but we don’t remember who came in 2nd, and we certainly don’t recall who finished “last.”
A few weeks ago, I was asked who ran against Ronald Reagan for President in 1984. I could not recall the name of his opponent ( Walter Mondale). It’s not easy to name “secondary results.”
For example, when my mother was taking a test to diagnose Alzheimer’s, one of the questions was “Who is currently the Vice-President of the United States?” Her answer was a firm, “Who cares about that?” The physician proctoring the exam laughed and said, “I’ll have to give her that one!”
BUT it’s not always a bad thing to come in 2nd. Sure (and here’s the sports reference), the winners of the Super Bowl get $124,000 bonus checks (each); however, the losers (the 2nd place team in the league) get $62,000 bonus checks each. Not bad. I’d take it.
On “ America’s Got Talent,” the television talent competition, the winner gets $1 million and the 2nd place, 3rd place, etc. on down get nothing. But because of the exposure on the show, many 2nd or 3rd place singers went on to get recording contracts or to get successful careers.
Being a runner-up on occasion has actually been great for me — I “came in 2nd” interviewing for a job years ago and was certainly devastated for a bit, but I went on to interview — and get — a terrific position that greatly enhanced my career.
(It didn’t hurt my feelings any when, a few months later, the first company called to ask about my interest as the person selected didn’t work out. SORRY! Not sorry.) It’s not always a “complete loss” to be the runner-up!
But back to my original question, do we all need a “ribbon”? Are the constant “pats on the back” and recognitions really necessary? Can’t we self-motivate and just do our best? Constantly put out a work product that gives us pride and others recognize as significant — without getting a ribbon?
I think so. I believe, actually, that constant issuance of participation ribbons and the like leads to “award fatigue,” in which the recognition becomes expected and, thereby, meaningless.
So, instead, give yourself the ribbon. Pat yourself on the back, speak words of encouragement to yourself. Set a goal and reward yourself when you meet it. Don’t depend on others for recognition or motivation or kudos; you might be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.
Unless you’re in a field of 2 participants, relish that 2nd place finish and try harder for 1st the next time by being self-motivated.
After all, ribbons fade, trophies gather dust, and plaques tarnish, but a job well done makes a difference and is worth the effort. For those of you who can’t see it, can’t do it, and are never satisfied unless you win every time — well, win. Really win. And when you don’t, try, try again.
Oh, and by the way — the answers are: 1) Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin; 2) George Lazenby; 3) Sir Francis Drake. But, you knew that, right?
Here’s your ribbon! Add it to your stack and congratulations on participating.
(Don’t worry. I’m not passing out “I’m stupid” signs today. Since you’re smart enough to read to the end of my post, I’m sure you don’t deserve one, anyway.)
Mark Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues around the world. He shares his experience, outlook, background knowledge, studies, and observations in regular posts at the IncubatorBlogger. Feel free to follow him there — or follow him and UF Innovate right here.
University of Florida Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the laboratory to the market, fostering a resilient economy and making the world a better place. Based at one of the nation’s leading research institutions, UF Innovate comprises four organizations: Tech Licensing, Ventures and two business incubators, Sid Martin Biotech and The Hub. Within the UF Office of Research, the three organizations form a comprehensive system to take technologies from the lab to the public, bringing together the five critical elements in the “innovation ecosystem”: facilities, capital, management talent, intellectual property and technology-transfer expertise.
Originally published at http://incubatorblogger.wordpress.com on March 11, 2020.