Growing up, I was involved in everything. You name the sport, band, or spelling bee and I was in it. I’ve got more trophies than my mom’s attic knows what to do with. And although I pride myself for there being quite a few first place and runner ups, I scratch my head looking back on how they even fit the word “PARTICIPATION” on that small, plastic, gold-colored plate on the front of those things.
I already know what you’re thinking, “Another article about the millennials, how lazy we are (Yes, I’m one too), and our belief that we deserve a trophy just for showing up.” Well, against the world’s habitually overused rhetoric that has plagued our entire generation all because of a stupid plastic trophy sitting in a box in an attic, I’m here with a different message.
I’m declaring war. This war isn’t against any person, any generation, or any doctrine. This war is against the way the world around us thinks. Let’s do a quick, personal case study.
When I was 7 years old I lost in the first round of my Elementary Spelling Bee for messing up the word “jubilee” (or jubiley — I still can’t get it right). My memory back to that age isn’t perfect, but am I really supposed to believe that at the awards ceremony I was stomping around, pouting, expecting and demanding that someone recognize me for losing by giving me a ribbon just for being there? NO WAY! I didn’t have a choice in the matter — I just got one. As confused as I may or may not have been — it was just what started happening after every time I competed. Win or lose, I somehow was handed a trophy.
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You see, human beings are products of our environments (although this is never an excuse in my opinion). Our expectations are set at a very young age on what our view of life is and how we believe things are “supposed” to work. Now, I’m not trying to throw blame on an entire generation above us, but somewhere along the way, someone had to start giving those 7 year old kids trophies for participating. There was a time in history in which someone decided to start bringing more than just First, Second, and Third place trophies to these tournaments.
Throughout my career of witnessing millennials accomplish amazing professional and personal success, it has become harder and harder for me to continue to hear all the millennial, negative chit chat. I mean, we’re talking about a generation of 80 million people whose inventions, forward thinking, and courage have literally changed the world. Facebook has brought down dictatorships and wedged wars. WhatsApp has connected and allowed over a billion people across the globe to communicate where most couldn’t before. And we’re developing cars that will drive themselves! What???
Here’s where I believe the train went off the tracks. Somewhere in hindsight, people started being soft on us. Our coaches quit getting in our face when we blew a play, our parents quit disciplining and expecting more out of us, and our managers quit having hard conversations in fear of hurting our feelings. Again, this is not a blame game. Instead, it’s a call to action to remind that this generation is capable of amazing things. Next time, instead of assuming that this group of millennials is soft and entitled, try being hard on us, managing us to high standards, and expecting us to achieve. You’ll be surprised what you get.
To my generation, back me up when this happens. There are no trophies in the real world — erase it from your memory. You no longer get one for just waking up.