For the last 30 years US parents, schools and youth athletic teams were all fed a singular, central message about how to rear successful children and guess what? They were wrong. All the developmental literature and experts have been pumping out the message: self-esteem is the #1 ticket to success.
That’s why all the kids playing T-ball got a trophy, whether they won or not. Some leagues didn’t even keep score. After all, athletic contests weren’t about athletic ability, training, or practicing. And, they certainly weren’t about real winning. They were engineered to be all about building up your self-esteem. Hence, the endless ribbons, trophies and even grade inflation that were meant to fill up the well of self-esteem that would somehow flow over into a river of success.
Schools and parents were fed, and then recycled a stream of “build them up” rhetoric, because children were supposed to be protected from feeling the pain of poor performance and criticism. Competition and comparison were evil doers. Self-esteem was to be preserved at all times.
No one was better, we were all just different.
At least that’s the way it has been in the US. Of course, from other cultures we heard about draconian measures taken by so-called “tiger parents,” who pressured, demanded, and withheld any fun that could possibly get in the way of perseverance.
In the US, parents were supposed to be helicoptering around their kids, so that all possible praise and good fortune wouldn’t dim the bulb of self-esteem.
Turns out all that is hogwash. Self-esteem, earned or not, isn’t a causal factor of success. Self-esteem is a by-product of success. If not, you simply have a person with a bloated ego, poor self-management and a complete misunderstanding of what work is.
This is why so many managers are completely perplexed about their entry level employees. Many of these new workers seem to think that simply showing up is the job – and by the way, when is the next raise and promotion??? I hear an endless litany of complaints from their managers. These folks don’t spell check their work , they don’t finish their work, and they have only a very casual relationship with deadlines. Plus, they don’t get along with other people at work, clients included.
Someone owes us all an apology.
It’s not self-esteem that leads to success.
Self-control leads to success.
In the famous, “can-you-wait-for-two-marshmallows” test with young children who were sat in front of one marshmallow they could eat on-the-spot … you guessed it. What happened to the children who waited; that fraction of the group who exhibited self-control? Decades later, they were successful adults! The one-marshmallow eaters were far behind in wages, job titles and life in general.
Self-control – the ability to patiently wait, to think about future reward while working hard in the present – that is all you need to succeed.
So if you feel unjustifiably proud of yourself for having all those little trophies? Don’t worry. There’s a new chance, every time the sun comes up. Today, you can practice being polite, waiting your turn, or get working on something that is really difficult – and won’t pay off for years to come.
It turns out self-control builds character. And, that’s what it takes to pursue a vision for your own business or build a career in a company or industry. Now get to work!