What James Harrison can teach entrepreneurs about participation

Should kids receive participation awards?

That's one of the big questions in the wide world of sports this week. James Harrison, veteran linebacker of the Pittsburgh Steelers, recently learned that his two sons were given participation awards after an athletic event. Harrison took away the "awards" and returned them to the organization.

Here's part of the caption Harrison shared on his Instagram post about the "awards,"

"I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best...cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better...not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut [you] up and keep you happy."

Now, obviously kids and adults have different needs. Some kids need more "wins" than others, but it's amazing how much entitlement is fostered through ridiculous practices like giving participation "awards". The practices we adopt as children become the principles we embody as adults.

Fact of life: you will lose at one point or another. And no one should give you a participation "award" for losing.

Fact of life: kids who receive participation "awards" can grow into adults who expect eight weeks of vacation when accepting their first job out of college.

I applaud Harrison for not allowing his sons to expect awards simply for showing up. What I love about entrepreneurs is that we can't afford to expect participation "awards" simply for launching a business. Success comes more easily for some than others. It's when we don't succeed that we learn the most. Getting a prize for losing only weakens the learning opportunity.

Participation awards and entrepreneurs

If you're looking to launch your dreams, there will be opportunities for compromise. People will offer you participation "awards" that will pull you away from your dreams. The most common participation "award" for entrepreneur is a job offer. It's safe and a reliable paycheck and peace of mind, especially if you have a family to support.

Some entrepreneurs need to consider those offers because the dream isn't working out the way you planned. For many of us though, these are just temptations to settle for a lesser future.

I've received six job "offers" in the past eighteen months, some with extremely good salaries and benefits. I politely declined, but I do one thing with each of those offers. I file them in an email folder. When I'm discouraged or hit a rocky patch on the road of entrepreneurship, I open that folder and review each of those offers. It'd be natural to think that would be even more temptation to accept one of those offers, but for me, it's a reminder why I declined every single one of them.

May your dreams involve opportunities to compromise. It's in those opportunities where your resolve and faith in God's calling on your life is reinforced. It's where you're reminded that you can't expect participation "awards," only real victories from hard work, dedication, and refusal to compromise.

Thank you, James Harrison. You've reminded me again why I work so hard and can't afford to settle.

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