The impetus for this post comes from my oldest son (again) and his current fascination and drive to play football. I wrote it a while ago, but never published it. As his football season is progressing and he (#93) was selected to do the coin toss the other night, another story with him made me go back and reconsider, but that is for another time. The original writing of it follows…
He has been running for the 4 weeks leading up to summer camp. I would be dishonest if I did not say that some days were much harder than others and required a lot of motivation (and patience) on my part. He is after all eight and constantly bombarded by the instant gratification (contrary to me and my wife’s constant battle in the opposite direction) around him.
How often in today’s society, especially education do we not only notice, but encourage the notion of instant gratification. Kids expect their grades to be instantly raised if they do some homework; parents rush to lessen consequences for a discipline issue or bad grade. Many times students are rewarded for mediocre performance because “we don’t want them to feel bad or left out”.
They give out performance trophies after each day in camp. These are not the attendance type trophies so wonderfully stood up against by James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is announced at the beginning that they are for superior performance and that they hope to give it to the same players every day if it’s deserved. I cannot explain how bad my son wants one. I waited for the fallout when his name was passed over every day and then at the end when they gave the overall trophies. We walked to the car in relative silence. After removing his pads and getting in, my son looked at me and said; “I was really close today daddy. Maybe if I keep working I will get one next year.” I stared at this little boy trying so hard to be older (wait; grown up) than he is and while suppressing any sadness I had for him having come up short, began to smile at something much more valuable. He was beginning to understand the value and long term success of hard work. In education the popular tag for this right now is “failing forward.” As more conversation occurred, it became clear that he had somewhat of an idea of where he fell short and what he has to do to get better next year. Consider that life lesson learned; or at least well on his way to learning it.
Working hard to achieve a goal often isn’t a short term endeavor. Rather, it is a drawn out process that when successful, is a greater accomplishment than originally planned. Would I have liked him to receive a trophy because I personally know how hard he has worked? Absolutely, but it makes me 100 times more satisfied; no proud, to see that he is beginning to understand the value of hard work for the sake of personal gain further down the road.
While I continue to learn from my sons on a daily basis, I continually look for ways to help them and other students realize that success in life has little to do with luck, being in the right place at the right time, or something that someone else can give you. Rather, it comes from perseverance, hard work, and determination. If you do not encounter obstacles on your journey with which you must struggle, you are not growing to your potential. Any sports, academic, or military program only reaches a level of success equal to the toughest obstacle they needed to overcome. If the willingness to push forward is never tested or even worse; absent, we will never withstand true resistance when it is most needed. Success comes from the ability to get to the other side of adversity…even when you don’t get a trophy for getting there.