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John Wayne's Holster: Aspiring to Mediocrity
John Wayne's Holster
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Aspiring to Mediocrity

My Uncle Dan taught me a lot of lessons about life – lessons that I will never forget. Sports provided the venue for a fair number of those lessons. Learning how to win gracefully, learning not to be a sore loser, giving it your all. These are things that apply to life, just as well as they do to basketball, football or even whiffle ball.

Another vital lesson I learned was the importance of challenging yourself. You will never get better if you don't challenge yourself and overcome obstacles. Or as Uncle Dan used to say, “You want to become a better player, then you have to play against people that are better than you!” This is one of the most important lessons one can learn.

When kids grow-up and venture out into the real world, they are always going to come up against people who are better than they are in one particular way or another, be it in the work place, their social life, the gym, or in the routine events of daily life. When confronted with obstacles, they can either face the challenge, or fold up their tent and go home crying for mommy. Sadly, many Americans are teaching their kids to pack it in and go home.

I saw this story a few days ago on ESPN about a 9 year old kid who was banned from pitching in his Little League games because he was better that the other kids. Apparently, the kids on other teams were not having any fun because they would always lose. When the boy’s coach told him to go out and pitch despite the ban, the opposing coach had his team walk off the field, thus forfeiting the game.

Unfortunately, this event is not an isolated one. Rather, it is a microcosm of an oft-repeated and all-too-common happening in the lives of our children. Kids are being brainwashed with the idea that winning is the only reason to engage in any activity. The competition and the striving seem to have lost their meaning. The proverbial playing field is being artificially leveled so that outcomes are more or less the same.

Competitions are frowned on in schools, because that means someone has to lose and have his/her feelings hurt. All the kids at birthday parties have to be given bags full of snacks, toys, and other party favors, otherwise someone may feel sad because they didn’t get any presents. At school talent shows, everyone gets a blue ribbon and a certificate just for walking in the door.

It's as if all inputs are equal.

I'll let you in on a little secret. THEY'RE NOT! And don't be suprised when you get out in the real world and your shortcomings smack you square on your face.

Unfortunately, our children are not being taught this lesson. They don't know how to deal with disappointment, or how to handle set-backs. Or more importantly, how to find something positive in the disappointments and set-backs that they all eventually must face. As many successful people will testify, the most valuable things they learned about themselves, or the things that spurred their greatest triumphs, were revealed to them through the mistakes they made and the defeats they suffered along their journey.

In short, our kids are being told that only winning is important. And if you can’t win, then it’s not fair, so don’t play. Its an attitude that produces spoiled, mediocre children who “grow-up” to become maladjusted and mediocre adults.

And we wonder why the US is falling behind the rest of the world.

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