Earning Versus Entitlement: A Critical Doer Tip Of The Hat To James Harrison

A Critical Doer generates motion from “why” more than “what”

James Harrison, all-pro defensive lineman with the Pittsburgh Steelers, made waves this week when he took to social media and stated that he made his sons return the participation trophies they received for playing youth football.  His reasoning was that his sons shouldn’t get something for just being on the team…trophies are earned for accomplishing something.

Bravo Mr. Harrison for taking on a controversial issue and hitting it as hard as you hit quarterbacks.  There’s a lot of press and pontification about a growing entitlement culture in our nation…and the discussion happens as if this phenomenon evolved without any influence from parents and leaders.

As much as parents, including me, want to protect their kids and foster a healthy sense of self-esteem, the fact of the matter is we limit their ability to become critical thinkers and critical doers later in life when we foster a false reality that adversity, failure, and disappointment do not exist.  The manifestation is seen in this quality called…resiliency.

Looking back on my own youth, I have to admit that much of the success I’ve earned as an adult are attributable to lessons learned in overcoming adversity.  When I was young, I was overweight…the teasing and ridicule hurt then and it still does, but it also motivated me to get fit.  Would I have been happy without the hurt?  Yes.  Would I likely have, based upon family history; heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and a lower quality of life had I not achieved fitness?  Yes.  I didn’t make the first sports team I tried out for…it hurt, enough that I worked harder, appreciated the opportunity when I did make the team, and the work ethic helped me earn all-conference honors multiple years in multiple sports.  Trust me…there’s plenty more.

We all have stories like this…I’m not unique or special in that regard.  The point that James Harrison and I are both trying to make is that overcoming failure and adversity is a necessary life skill.  Beyond a doubt, the road to all my successes is paved with adversity that had to be overcome.  I truly believe that if we let our kids grow up where the result is the same regardless of effort, skill, and performance we have failed to foster resilience.  The result is the normal circumstances of life become debilitating.

The same holds true in leading organizations.  Leadership is separated from “likership” through a willingness to push people past their comfort zone, even to the point of controlled but manageable failure, in order to grow professionally and build a culture that responds positively under tough economic circumstances or a challenge from competitors.  As you recall, a cornerstone of Critical Doer philosophy is that the only future we have is the one we’re willing to make for ourselves.  That reality doesn’t come from entitlement…it comes from a resilient doer who earns it!

James Harrison’s stance is controversial, and many of you will feel the same about this post, but learning to respond in a healthy way to losing is a necessary part of learning to win.  Your challenge is to accept that this lesson, one essential to increasing your capacity to do, will not happen on its own.  Actively lead and mentor those who look to you for guidance to build the resilience skills necessary to move forward when the circumstances of life come to call.

It’s what a Critical Doer would…do…and James Harrison, this Critical Doer tip of the hat is for you.


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Updated: August 19, 2015 — 1:31 am