When gold gets old

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

I grew up thinking that this was true – particularly when battling two brothers – no, the entire neighborhood. It’s taken the better part of a lifetime to learn that there’s more to life than winning. Now, more than ever, I remind myself of this truth and applaud organizations and institutions that represent values that transcend our overtly competitive climate. So, at a time when this country questions the very foundation of our democracy, along come the Olympics.

Olympics

Don’t be fooled. The games are always politicized for gain — Russia out, North and South Korea new friends, various Olympic sport governing bodies in shambles. We will look at these Games through the lens ushered in last January. America! Capitalism! Me, me, me! A country driven by performance, by winning, by ego. Corporate success depends on an organization’s ability to win market share, drive profit. To the winner go the spoils. Our very nature bound up in being the best, and not just one of the players.

But being the best, and giving your best are not the same thing, and too often we get them confused. I know of at least one school that takes a very different approach, giving two grades, one for achievement, and one for effort. Your final grade takes them both into account. A novel idea that our achievement culture ignores.

Instead, our news feeds are littered with companies who prize performance over effort, often at the expense of the very values we hold dear. I argue that these are reversed. I’ve always believed that if you give your best effort, great performance will follow. The goal not gold, but golden effort.

  • In what ways is your company built to encourage employees to rise-up and give their best effort, even at the risk of failure?
  • Will the 24/7 Olympic news cycle feature winning and conceit, or participation, personal best, and great effort?
  • How is your organization structured? Do you reward being the best, or giving your best?
  • How will we reflect on ourselves and our organizations when watching these Olympics?

Don’t let your environment suffer under empty promises. Reward effort, and gold medal performance will follow.

Leave a comment

  1. Well said by someone working in the creative world, and who has also played at highly competitive levels of sport.
    I especially agree that real effort is encouraged by providing some freedom to fail, learn and try again. In my own work (in game-based learning), sometimes that freedom is the most important thing.

    Reply

Leave a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nine − 8 =