“Young people these days just don’t work as hard.”
That’s a direct quote from a good friend of mine, who, and I’m being serious, is 30-years old. Once I reminded him of this unimpeachable fact he rebuffed, “It’s just different. My priorities are different.” My friend is an employer, who was eschewing the work ethic of an employee. Irony notwithstanding, my friends point seems to be consensus.
There is a world of contradictions to the notion that Millennials don’t work as hard as previous generations. I’m a Millennial, I’m also a talk show host and Program Director for ESPN radio in San Antonio, and this opinion, or surrogate for an absolute truth is just one of many of life’s perpetual patterns.
My friend and his employee are the same age, but reached different levels in the workforce because of the same relenting principles of success.
Every generation looks to the subsequent generation with contempt. It’s a natural machination. My grandparent’s generation couldn’t fathom the music my father’s generation listened to, or the clothes they chose to wear.
The collective generational experience differs because humanity evolves. The more we learn about the world, the more our society grows and changes.
In the 50’s Bear Bryant expected his Junction Boys to practice for ten plus hours in extreme heat without water. This technique, now more akin to torture, was purported to create the best, most powerful football players. But practicing through triple digit temperatures without water does not equate to mettle, it’s pure stupidity. The evolution of modern medicine has given way to athletes that are bigger, faster and stronger than they’ve ever been.
Recently HBO Real Sports aired an episode, which eluded to the growth stunting nature of our modern “Everybody Gets a Trophy Society.” The premise is fairly simple: If every kid receives a trophy then they are growing up with a false sense of success, and even worse a false sense of how to attain success.
Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker James Harrison concurred with the HBO Real Sports premise. He posted a photo of participation trophies his children received with a caption noting the uselessness and stupidity of said trophies. “Everything in life should be earned,” posted Harrison on Instagram “I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues”
A true pioneer for parenting that James Harrison. Perhaps Harrison would be better served not allowing participation trohpies to raise his kids.
Participation trophies don’t create a false sense of success. We are all inherently biased by the ways in which we achieved our own success. Our lives are an accumulation of the experiences we’ve faced, so our view of success is shaped by those experiences.
The Real Sports segment concluded that children who grow up in this environment are doomed to fail. They will be ill prepared to enter the real world where there are clear winners and losers.
We are all skewed by our own life experiences. The absolute truth of success is rooted in hard work and preparation and those traits are not stunted by participation trophies. Instead, they are reinforced through external stimuli.
According to the Pew Research Study one in three “Older Millennials” [currently aged 26–33] have a 4-year college degree or more, making them the most educated young adults in American history. Because there are now more opportunities to go to college, there is more competition in the job market. In previous generations a college degree was sufficient to ensure long term employment. The Pew Research Study indicated Millennials, the generation hypothesized to be most affected by participation trophies, have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment.
I graduated college in 2007. This was one of the worst times in American history to be entering the workforce. The housing bubble was bursting, and our nation was steeped in a horrendous recession.
An entire generation of graduates entered the marketplace with a shortage of jobs and no shortage of viable candidates.
Evolution changes the game, but Social Darwinism ensures that the rules remain the same. Life will always be a sink or swim proposition. Participation Trophies cannot alter that. Parents and administrators can’t always control the environment to ensure inclusion and success. Our society is equipped with meritocratic governance, an omnipresent counterbalance to the perceived byproduct of participation trophies.
Despite difficult circumstances from external forces, Millennials were able to build the foundation for their professional lives at the worst possible time. If participation trophies skewed the way Millennials view competition then entering the workforce during The Great Recession would have undone an entire generation of American workers.
I received participation trophies throughout my childhood. They meant nothing. Winning and losing is not measured by trophies. Competition unveils the truth.
Opponents of participation trophies don’t just believe this mentality fosters a false notion of success; there is also a belief that it cultivates entitled, egotistical people.
The truth is egotism is not generational. Take the Lake Wobegon Effect for instance. Named for the fictional town in A Prairie Home Companion, The Lake Wobegon Effect is the human predisposition of illusory superiority. In the mid 70’s researchers conducted a survey attached to every SAT exam. These students were asked to rate themselves relative to the median of the sample on a number of vague positive characteristics. In ratings of leadership, 70% of the students put themselves above the median. In ability to get on well with others, 85% put themselves above the median; 25% rated themselves in the top 1%. How is it possible that high school seniors in the 70’s, kids that grew up in a world where they received trophies just for winning, all had an overinflated sense of self-worth?
We currently live in the most egotistical time in the world’s history. We post photos of our new car on Facebook, vacations on Instagram and asinine thoughts on twitter. Cell phones aid an egotistical society. We all text, post, or answer calls during job interviews, presentations and meetings. This is not a product of participation trophies, it’s not generational. We live in a world of synthetic happiness. Sensory experiences are now an exercise of the collective. We can’t just be happy and content with our world; we must share this happiness with everyone else.
Watch people at restaurants. You’ll notice gobs of people, all seated at the same table inhibiting a world that does not physically exist. I waited tables for years, and noticed people of all ages seated with one another without exchanging a word. We have more means of communication now than ever before and we are worse communicators.
The scientific method tasks us with observing and investigating. The Real Sports segment on participation trophies worked backwards.
Evolution demands that only the strongest survive. Every single living organism today has survived despite enormous odds based on this simplest premise. Human beings are too perceptive, too scientific by nature to be skewed too harshly in any one direction from any one life experience. Over time we accumulate enough experiences to shape our lives.
Someday, we Millennials will be old, sitting on our porch, or retirement home, or something exquisitely more futuristic, with the exact same contempt for modern music, fashion and behavior. Alas, the world turns.