Trophies and Proofs

My diplomas are stowed in dresser drawers, somewhere. Those sheepskins cost a pretty penny. You’d think they’d be framed and displayed on a wall.

But they’re not.

In fact, I’m not entirely sure which drawers in which dresser, and it doesn’t matter. My definition of success isn’t dependent on what others see or feel when they look at me, when they enter my home, when they sit in the cozy room I call my office.

The prize for me is in the experience: the daily, nightly sweat of studying and discussing, the discoveries attached to the learning process, the lessons acquired in following through. The joy is in the doing. And yes, the satisfaction is in delivering an exceptional result, and if for someone else, in knowing I exceeded their expectations.

But that is the College Self, the Grad School Self, the Adult, the Professional. It’s different when you’re a child. At least, as parents, we think it is.

Maybe so. Maybe not.

As for my children, whatever trophies and awards they acquired over the years are, as with most kids, out in the open.

Trophy for Every Kid

My sons’ faux bronze medals are hung from ribbons, hooked on tie racks, and looped over bedposts. Trophies for sports, arts, or academic achievements are lined up on bookshelves. My boys are proud of their wins, and they should be.  

When my kids were little, any trophy was a big deal – for the Spelling Bee, the Good Citizen selection – and they competed with each other over everything. Part of that competition was the number of tangible signs of being a winner – plaques and awards, statuettes and certificates.

Personally, I’m not of the “trophy for every kid” school of thought; I lean toward a balance of praising for effort and likewise for results – capable of winning, capable of losing, capable of focusing so they improve their own performance.

But that’s my way, and it may not be yours.

Knowledge is its Own Reward

As my kids matured, good grades became the focus when it came to achievement. Those hard-won A’s were the stepping stones to college, and in particular, to scholarships. But I hope that our familial value system was oriented at least as much on the knowledge itself, and skills necessary to continue acquiring more.

I’m a believer in formal education. Likewise, the School of Hard Knocks. Experience can be a harsh teacher or a tender one, and is ideal when it comes to honing judgment. Those degrees and other credentials? Of course they matter; I’m proud of my own. I seek them in others.

Success: Doing or Getting

If anything, I wish I were more capable of resting on my laurels, as the saying goes. You know – I once did this, I once did that. But it isn’t my way. I jump one hurdle, and I’m hungry for the next.

I have no need for trophies and proofs.

  • Are you driven by process or oriented toward result?
  • Are you motivated by prizes and awards? Do you need to see the fruits of your labors displayed to others?
  • Are your children motivated by trophies and medals?
  • When you seek expertise, do you choose credentials over life experience or vice versa? Do you seek both, if given a chance?


© D. A. Wolf