My dearest child,
We have to talk. There is something not right going on in your little world. It is, by no means, your fault. But I feel the need to address it and, hopefully, change your way of thinking before it’s too late. If I say this is about baseball, I fear you may laugh and wave me off. Baseball is where it starts for you, personally, but the heart of the matter is far deeper and widespread. So, listen closely, young one. Your future self depends on it.
Your childhood looks a lot different from my own. Today’s kids are getting trophies — not just for winning games, but for merely walking onto the field or court. The idea that “everyone wins” in the competitive arena is pretty common. This scares me for you, kid. I don’t want you to see this type of reward system. Because it’s not actually a reward in any sense of the word. What I see is a generation asking the question, “Well if I participate, what do I get?” Sports and other activities have moved away from experience to expectation. And my generation has encouraged this type of thinking because we’ve wanted you guys to feel good. We don’t want to keep score, or only issue trophies to the winning team because that would feel unfair. For goodness sakes, what have we done to our kids? We think we’re protecting you, but what are we teaching you about life?
I want to see you win or lose with grace, not with an outstretched hand, awaiting your prize. Rather, I want to see the emotions behind the battle. It is good, my love, to have tears and disappointment from falling short after a hard-fought game. Show me the elation and joy that overflows after a victory not so easily won. This is the stuff you may scoff at now, but there is a day coming where you will appreciate the fight to claim what’s yours.
College will not just hand over high-scoring essays. Your professors will not thank you for coming to class and deem attendance as enough. Corporate bigwigs won’t be waiting in the wings at graduation to offer you your dream job because you walked the stage. Your future spouse won’t be won over by you merely “being there.” Your children will not flourish and thrive simply because you share the same DNA. And, even if these things did happen, I don’t want them for you. Kid, there is work to be done. There are obstacles to overcome and barriers to smash. The life that we’ve hidden from you by plunking a cheap thanks-for-showing-up trophy in your hand is not an easy one. That’s an understatement, and I don’t mean to scare you. But know you will lose — even if it’s not on the field.
Losing is painful. It hurts the pride. It makes you question yourself, and it can make you skeptical. But losing also refines you, if you allow it to do so. Falling short teaches you that you won’t get everything you desire. But it’s then that desires begin to shift. You can see what’s worth fighting for in life and how hard you’re willing to dig in. I told you something important once when I was teaching you to skate. “It’s not about falling, but whether you chose to get back up.” Be the person who gets back up when loss has knocked you down. Do not ask for the consolation prize as your crawl away. And frankly, you’ll probably lose more than you’ll win. It’s a bummer, but it’s just the way of the world. How will you lose? What will you do with failure to get better . . . better at your craft, better with your relationships, better as the person you want little eyes to see?
I know this is deep stuff for a kid. How much easier life would be if I could feed you fairy tales and assure you everything will fall into place. But the hard truths I’ve shared will carry you farther than the shiny trinkets you think you want so badly now. I’m rooting for you. Know that. Trust yourself enough to go for the big wins, but be willing to let the losses grow you.