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3 April 2011 - No Awards equal No Motivation to Achieve

I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the 2011 edition of ‘March Madness’; watching young men and women on the basketball court play their hearts out to become champions. As I watch these young people give their best effort, I note that in every game there is a winner, and there also is a loser.

The reason I bring it up at this time is, with graduation approaching, I have been hearing from some parents telling me that in their high school this year, there will not be a Valedictorian of the graduating class. I am also hearing from some parents who tell me that this year, at their County Fair, there will be no Grand Champion ribbon. There will not be a purple ribbon, because we can’t have one champion and suffer the impact on the psyche of all of those young men and women who are not the Grand Champion exhibitor. There are those who say that if you lose it will damage you for life. So rather than honor one Valedictorian or honor one Grand Champion in the cattle ring, we will simply not give those Grand Champion ribbons this year.

I thoroughly disagree with that kind of thinking and I do so for a personal reason. Let me share it with you. When I was a senior in high school in Ontario, Wisconsin, I was one of the five state finalists in the State FFA Public Speaking contest. I worked hard; I thought I was pretty good and deserving of being a finalist. I was confident I would go to that state convention and bring the Grand Championship back to my small 90-student high school in Ontario. When the judges finished their work that night, I came in fourth out of five. I certainly wasn’t happy about the loss, but my FFA Advisor and I spent the next few days talking about what I could have done differently. Yes, I learned from losing and used that knowledge to prepare me for a 58-year broadcasting career. I’m convinced we can learn more from losing than we can from winning.

Let’s apply that theory to a med student studying surgery, a research scientist looking for a cure or any other challenge in our lifetime…where would the motivation and incentive to achieve and do better in life come from if we grow up without facing challenges and learning that even though we lose, we can learn from that loss, or to experience the joy of a win and realize hard work can pay off? How will we prepare our children for the challenges in life if they do not face the smaller ones now?

As Bill Gates said in a high school commencement address "Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but LIFE HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they‘ll give you as many time as you need to get the right answer. This doesn‘t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life".

I can’t even imagine a "March Madness" next year with all winners and no losers!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.