I’m noticing a frightening trend that seems to be growing. A lot of people, especially young adults, no longer have a competitive spirit. A spirit which we all know is what made this country great at the height of its success. Competition is the foundation of our economic system. It creates more options, better prices and better products for consumers. It spurs new ideas and builds character. It creates a platform that rewards effort, ingenuity and talent with a tangible reward.
But something happened. Something very damaging, if not completely destructive to the system. Someone, somewhere, decided sensitivity should be injected into competitive situations.
To me that is not possible. It’s the ultimate oxymoron: being competitive and being sensitive. You can’t want to beat someone at something and worry about their feelings. You won’t win. Winning, in a sense, is heartless. Now, I’m not saying beat someone at something and then stomp on them when they’ve lost. That’s not being humble.
I totally and unequivocally support humility. What I’m saying is the trend I’m seeing is leaning towards entitlement and away from effort. Effort is a major component in any competitive situation. And it takes a lot of effort, resolve, focus, skill and killer instinct to win at anything.
I’m sure you’ve all experienced or heard about situations where on children’s playgrounds, soccer fields, classroom, etc., the games no longer have a “winner”. All because at least one-half of the kids’ feelings were getting hurt. Yes, these are the same kids that have always been on the field, but before all this nonsense we knew them as slackers. The children that didn’t want to put in the effort to be winners and therefore did not have the skills nor the resolve to win. And because that was, is and always will be the majority of the kids on the field, it was decided that score and winning were no longer important and it was declared: “Everyone is a winner”. And so the deterioration of our competitive system began to crumble and the right of entitlement was born.
That’s right. Put your kid on a soccer team, let him stand on the field scratching his head watching the ball as it moves meaninglessly up and down the field wondering what is going on, and he gets a trophy and he’s a “winner”. What?! I’m sorry, this is wrong. And if you don’t think that gets ingrained into their character and carries into their adult life – think again. It has! I have and continue to interview dozens of college grads for entry level positions and a solid 95% of them lack a competitive spirit. And when asked “Why should I hire you?” or “What makes you a standout over the hundreds of other applications on my desk that have also won soccer trophies?” you can probably guess what they do… yep… they sit there and scratch their head. Maybe some of the children parents allow on the fields shouldn’t be athletes, maybe they were meant to compete in the academic arena instead. We need those people more than athletes. But because their sense of competition was removed by the “Everyone is a Winner!” philosophy they gained a sense of entitlement that carried into all aspects of their life. Here’s a startling statistic: A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American adults shows that 23% believe today’s children will be better off than their parents. 59% disagree and 18% are undecided. So as many as 3 out of 4 adults think their children will be worse off than them. Isn’t the entire purpose of life to make sure the next generation is better off? Need I say more?
Democracy is great but competition is a key component to its success. Remove the competition and you’re left with socialism. I can’t solve this country’s problems in a blog, but what I can say to you as a smart business owner or individual is: adopt a killer instinct, get competitive and play to win. Being chosen to do great projects or have customers patronize your company is not an entitlement. It’s a privilege that’s earned. Being a winner takes work, it’s something you fight for and ultimately the prize is there. You win. And so does your business, your family and your customers. Everyone is NOT a winner, in fact only the minority are, and being one takes extraordinary effort. But the opportunity has never been better!
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