There Is No “Life Participation” Trophy

Trophy Nameplate

Trophy nameplate for showing up

But I got a trophy when I was younger…?

When I was a kid, one year I got a trophy for playing soccer. Our team sucked. We were last in our division, and I think we won maybe two games out of 10 or 12. At the end of the season, we all got a trophy. It was a surprise to me since we were horrible. It was the only time I ever got a trophy for doing poorly in my life. At best, we showed up. Every time I looked at that trophy, it paled in comparison to the trophies next to it on my bookshelf we earned after winning championships.

I persevered with my scholastic soccer career, and it culminated with being a starter on our high school soccer team. On that team, we dominated two divisions and finished the season 22-2. I also made the Alabama State Select Team and went to Southeast Regional camp. As my teammates and I were leaving, we saw a banner welcoming the kids for trying out for the US Olympic National Soccer Team that week. We were those kids. We won a couple of trophies for this performance, and it was a chain of events that I will always carry with me. It was the winning experience, and it kept me going through some incredibly dark days of my life. It also kept me focused that I am a winner and that, although things were temporarily tough, I knew that I would win again.

Congratulations! You showed up!

There is a Woody Allen quote I see or hear occasionally that I have always doubted. That quote is “80% of success is showing up.” What this means is that if you show up, your chances of success are greater than if you don’t show up. Some people have rationalized that, since 80% is a B in most school grading systems, if you just show up, you get a B. Somehow over the years, people have misconstrued this quote into “95% of success is just showing up.” This way you get an A for just showing up. Presto! Everyone gets a trophy!

No Trophy for Just Showing Up

There is a trend these days to boost the self-esteem of people who do not do well and whose results are lacking. This concept not only gives people a false sense of accomplishment, but it also robs the glory of victory from the victors. From little league baseball to the President telling successful entrepreneurs and business owners “You didn’t build that,” giving everyone a trophy belittles the accomplishments of others by making everyone the same. Unfortunately, when you get to the marketplace or reality, you don’t get a paycheck (trophy) just for showing up. Maybe you or someone you know receives royalties or deferred compensation. Someone had to do something to start the ball rolling to get that deferred compensation in the bank. What about those who inherit their wealth? Someone earned that money at some point and passed it along to their descendants. The point is that if you do nothing, you will get nothing.

The only way to get a trophy

I don’t know of every instance where someone does nothing and gets paid for it. However, it has been my experience that there is a certain level of competence that comes from getting a trophy, or a paycheck, and especially a commission check. If you don’t earn it, you don’t get the prize. If you have nothing, it’s because you did nothing, and therefore, you are earning nothing. You have to get off your couch and earn what you keep. No one owes you anything unless you earn it by proving your value in the marketplace. If you earn it and don’t get the trophy, then you might want to do what you do for someone else who will pay the price you ask.

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