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The Dream is Free, But The Hustle is Sold Separately

April 13, 2016

It is better to achieve than to receive. We take pride in what we accomplish. The end result feels better when we work for it. 

Somewhere along the line, the concept of working hard to achieve something has gotten lost. Fights break out at middle school sporting events because people don’t like the outcome. Coaches curse at referees because they do not want their players held accountable. Trophies are handed out to everyone because everyone is a winner, even if you lose. I’ve even seen award names changed because they didn’t want to say “Most Valuable Player” so others on the team do did not feel badly. 

As a society, we don’t want to offend anyone. We don’t want anyone to feel less than, and in the process we have stopped giving credit to those that work hard.  And in turn we get offended when people are called out for achieving something. What that has started to do is create feelings of entitlement.  If I have a problem with my co-worker, my boss needs to solve it.  If I’m not happy at work, it’s the Company’s fault. I dare the Company to give people that don’t smoke a discount on their health insurance. Why should I get punished just because I smoke? People peruse Facebook feeling jealous of other people’s lives and lament…Why not me? 

I’m not saying there are not legitimate gripes. Clearly, there are real issues in the workplace at times. But there are two sides to that coin and we tend to look at only one.  The shift in our society and workplace as a whole does give cause and pause for concern.  

There was a time when people were willing to sacrifice to get ahead. They shared living spaces with other family members or friends to get by.  People sacrificed and took on multiple jobs so that one member of the family could go to college.  There was a mentality, not that the next generation would be better than the previous, but that it was our responsibility, our duty to ensure the next generation would be better than ours.  Somewhere along the line our psyche has changed.  A lot of it started with the best intentions.  

Research that looked at performance in students determined that there were a group of students that did not respond well to grades.  They viewed grades as labels.  For instance, I got a C, so I am a C student and I am not smart. That grade and label and the focus on that grade and label became a limiting factor in that child’s growth.  

Now, some students responded well to grades. They liked achievement. They saw it as a challenge to get an A and if they did not get an A, they viewed that as an opportunity to work harder to earn the A.  They did not see it as a label.  Further research demonstrated that a focus on grades alone was not beneficial to all children.  The research pointed to focusing on effort.  That the reward or the consequence was merely a reflection of the effort that was put in by the student.  That did not mean that a student did not work hard or didn’t study.  It may have meant they studied the wrong things or in the wrong way.  

If you could look at the way a student approached a task or studied, you could help them improve their effort and improve their grades.  So, rather than saying, “you got a C. I know you struggle in math,” a teacher should say, “you got a C, so let’s talk about how you studied. How did you prepare? What could we do differently next time to improve on that?” 

Somewhere along the line, the research was mishandled when executed.  In our society that was exemplified by making sure that everyone was treated the same, that we should not make distinctions. Unfortunately, even focusing on better effort fell by the wayside.  

I remember when my son was young and baseball season ended and he received a trophy.  My son was one of the better players. I asked him where he wanted to put the trophy.  He didn’t seem to care. I asked him why he seemed indifferent to the trophy and he had an interesting response. He said it didn’t really mean anything. I asked him why.  His response was very telling. “Everyone got one.” This is a child at a very early age that clearly got a message that hard work, effort and your performance don’t matter.  

My wife and I have spent much time trying to work with our children to ensure that they get the right messages and that we reinforce the right messages.  But, at an early age, it was clear to me that the world and the environment were not necessarily sending the same messages.  

If you are receiving something without achieving something, there is no value. We are becoming takers rather than makers. Isn’t it about time that we not only buy into the dream, but we put a down payment back on the hustle?