I threw away my wife’s trophy.
She ran in a 5k and received one of those flimsy medals for her efforts.
I dangled it before her and asked, “Want to hang onto your participation trophy?”
“Nope,” she said.
I chucked it.
Awards – Cleaning
Our lives get cluttered with confusing awards.
We did some essential spring cleaning, tossing old garbage and donating what we didn’t need – things that took up space in our lives.
But the 5k award was particularly interesting.
Why was this plastic medal, supposedly an “award” she worked so hard for, then forgotten about for years, tossed carelessly in a drawer?
And still, why was the medal so meaningless, that it had absolutely no value? The value of that trophy was exactly zero.
It was taking up space. It was cluttering our lives. It had to go.
Awards – Participation
There’s a running joke about “kids these days needing participation trophies.”
Any sport they play, they’re immediately gifted with an award for their efforts. Win, lose, or draw, it doesn’t matter – because obviously, in the game of life everyone wins.
I don’t want to explain why this is horrible parenting. We’re raising our kids to be entitled brats, who don’t need to try, and get an award for showing up.
This isn’t how life works. No one gives you an award for doing your job.
Sure, I go to work every day, and put in effort – but at the end, all I get is a paycheck.
If you worked, you get money.
If you don’t work, you get zero.
Seems painful enough.
Awards – Band
This one time, in band, I won an award.
I played the trumpet and in 6th grade won the Most Improved award.
The strange thing about the Most Improved award, is it means you used to suck.
It’s like my conductor was telling me, “Hey Joe, in 5th grade you were horrible, but I didn’t want to tell you. But now you’ve put in the work and got better – but don’t get me wrong – you’re still not great, there are other kids better than you. But at least now you’re adequate.”
As a 6th grader I was over the moon. It was very exciting to win the Most Improved award. I felt special, and valued for the hard work I had put into learning the trumpet.
The next year, band was great. I had fun. I was like, “Look out ladies, here comes the most improved trumpeter. Let me toot my horn in various ways for you.”
I felt like a rock star.
Awards – Surprise
Then, to my surprise, as a 7th grader I won the Most Valuable Player award (MVP!).
“I won?!?” I shouted in utter shock. This was unheard of. The MVP award always went to an 8th grader, one of the older kids.
It’s like the Heisman Trophy going to a Freshman or Sophomore. How is an underclassman supposed to win the best player in college football? It makes no sense, but it happens.
So I accepted my award with praise and adoration.
The year after that went well for me too. Here I was, now an 8th grader, and the reigning recipient of the MVP award. Clearly, I was the best, and this was “my band.”
I was the leader, in charge, and ready to win the award for a second time in a row.
They may as well just slap my name on it and give it to me now. There was no other competition. Who else could they give it to?
And then, to my horror, I didn’t win.
Awards – Confused
They gave the MVP award to my friend, who is actually an amazing guy.
And honestly, we probably co-captained that band, for two years running. It was our band.
And I was happy for him, he had worked hard too, and played really well.
But I was confused. I was the best – it had already been determined – so why didn’t I get the award again?
Awards – Try Out
A year later, I tried out for the Youth Symphony Orchestra (or whatever it’s called). It’s where the best kids go to play.
In the “interview” recital, I was like, “Hey guys, I’m really good because I won the MVP award as a 7th grader.”
They were like, “That’s nice, but it’d be great if you could stop talking into your trumpet and play normally.”
I never got a call-back. They thought I sucked. That hurt my feelings.
Then later, I took some private lessons to keep up my trumpet skills.
My teacher was like, “You’re not very good. I like working with you because you have funny jokes, but the trumpet playing needs some improvement.”
So I quit that too. He hurt my feelings.
Awards – Effort
It’s easy to be a “big fish in a little pond.” You can put in marginally more effort than anyone else and be the best.
But enter the real world, and you’re facing a world of hurt.
You’re going against stiff completion who are kicking butts and taking names.
These people are putting in the time, energy, and effort, and going after what they want.
And you know how much time you’ve put in, if you’ve given it your all, and tried your best.
Because ultimately, no one cares what “awards” you’ve won.
All they want is to see you play.