Get Irritated, Get To Work, and Be Greater
James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers set off a firestorm of controversy this past summer when he made his son return summer camp trophies they’d received basically for just showing up. Mr. Harrison took issue with this concept of “Everyone is a winner, whether you win or lose.” Why not be greater?
In my humble opinion, this culture of “Everyone is a Winner,” and, “There are no losers,” created the crybaby culture we suffer with in this nation. And these crybabies are toddlers, pre-teens, teens, and 20, 30, 40, and 50 year olds.
I mean, Tee-Ball? One day these little ones will learn you don’t hit home runs in life from a stable stand. You’d better learn how to hit that pitch down and away over the fence. Those guys are the ones who earn, not make, earn, the big bucks. And guess what, they fail more than they succeed. But when they succeed, entire stadiums stand as one to watch a little white ball land in the seats.
Children learn by playing games of every kind – Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, Tag, sandlot football and baseball and basketball. When I played games with my daughter, she lost all the time. At first, she’d get upset as only little ones can, dragging one fuzzy doll or another to complain to her mom. Sometimes she’d even act like she didn’t want to play when I’d set up a game board. Thing is, she kept coming back for more punishment until she figured out a way to win. And she did win, dang it. Beat me at chess when I wasn’t giving the game my complete and undivided attention. Her attention, and will to win caught up to and passed me.
The child crowed about that win for a week. Or two.
I won’t even tell you how she finally beat me in one of our nightly foot races. I will simply say, she cheated, sort of.
But the way she did it made me so proud. Also let me know that the thought of having more sneaky children was definitely out of the question.
When she and her dear departed mother played Monopoly, it was akin to blood sport. They would cheat each other, accuse each other of cheating, secrete caches of Monopoly money, hide property cards, I mean blood sport.
But win or lose, by the end of the game, (and their discovering I’d snuck out so I wouldn’t have to referee), they laughed about the game.
They’d enjoyed competing against each other. Even better, her mom, by this time, had adopted my mantra of “Win, or keep trying”, so Ashley knew it was no quarter asked and none given.
Children must learn that in this life there are times when you will be the winner, and others when you will be the loser. The trick is enjoying more of the former, and less of the latter.
If you don’t like the taste of losing, then work harder, learn everything you can about your passion, think about it, strategize about it, devote your life to the mastery of it. Then, if it’s a sport, practice until they have to drag you off the field or the court. School – study until your eyeballs bleed. Turn off the television, don’t even buy the Wii game.
Did you know the kids who compete for the chance to win the Scripps Spelling Bee every year don’t waste time watching unnecessary or foolish television? They are engaged in increasing their personal vocabularies with words I never even knew existed. Talk about a great use of one’s time. There was one two-time winner from Brooklyn whose family didn’t own a television. But books, the walls and floors were covered with books.
Real Housewives of Where? Grey’s What? The Bachelor?
I will never forget people from both sides of the family telling me I was mean and cruel for making Ashley spend two summers and Wednesday nights and all day Saturday in school with the Prep For Prep program. Even my Bajan father said I was cruel, and her maternal grandmother told me her book bag was too heavy for her.
“Good,” I told her. “The heavier the books, the smarter the brain.”
She finished and attended Poly Prep Country Day School. From Poly Prep to Yale. The future? Bright, because she knows life gives you nothing. You work for what you want, and you’ll get it.
She knows that luck is nothing more than good fortune made manifest by opportunity meeting a mind prepared to take full advantage of all that opportunity contains.
And that program continues to this day. In late August, the latest survivors, the kids who cried but didn’t quit, commenced before attending some of the nation’s top private schools for middle and upper school. Fourteen months of what I once deemed academic hell, all for a glorious opportunity.
Opportunity. There goes that word again.
Hard? This year the Prep For Prep program will probably test another four to five thousand kids for the vying for the opportunity to occupy one of those 225 seats.
Look, the world is not your oyster. Even an oyster doesn’t excrete the nacre which creates it’s pearl until it’s irritated. So, get irritated, and get to work. And as my young friend, Qadir Forbes, a brand-new graduate of Williams College now working in finance for Disney says, “Be Greater!”
Thank you Mr. Harrison. I just hope more families follow your lead. Our nation, and our world, will be better for it.
And when your team loses to my NY Giants in the Super Bowl, I am sure you will work even harder.
Coach Tomlin hates, just hates, to lose.