It seems that every time I turn on the TV to watch the Olympics, beach volleyball is on. I had never before seen this event. But I have become a fan of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. I want them to win gold medals.
In essence, I want them to succeed, like I always wanted my employees to succeed, and now, my students.
Watching the Olympics, the point driven home to me with all the force of a Misty or Kerri shot is this: The Olympics is a metaphor for life, especially work/careers. There are winners, and there are losers. Students must get used to it, for as anyone working today knows, that is the way it is in the workplace.
In the Olympics, the best get either first, second, or third place. Everyone wants the gold, but there can be only one gold medalist.
On the job, I believe that most employees want to record good performance doing meaningful work in jobs that matter. Study after study proves this. My own 30-plus years of experience in Corporate America as both a manager and later as a consultant have shown this to be true.
Yet, I am seeing a disturbing trend among my Millennial students. Many have an unreal set of expectations about course performance that I fear will hurt their ability to make it in the workplace. In every class, an alarming number of students appear to believe that they should make only “As” no matter what. It appears that some simply feel entitled to As.
News flash — you earn “As” just like you earn job offers, promotions, and bonuses in the workplace. I have no problem with awarding high grades to students who earn them. I never had a problem with rewarding my employees when they deserved it either.
What disturbs me is the attitude when a student gets less than the coveted “A”: “But I worked so hard in this course! I tried so hard. It’s not fair!”
This is a meaningless argument. We are all supposed to try hard all the time. Life requires our strenuous efforts just to make it. It is not a question of fair or unfair. It just is what it is.
What if you heard a silver or bronze medalist whining, “But I tried so hard!” He or she probably did, and all the world saw it. We expect no less in the Olympics. Trying hard is a given; but there will be winners and losers.
Truth is, instructors and employers expect no less of students and employees, respectively. And there will be winners and losers in the classroom and workplace, too.
The individual has the power to affect outcomes in the classroom and the workplace. Just as Olympic athletes prepare themselves for competition, students and employees must prepare themselves to compete as well. That means training, discipline, and mental toughness.
The best prepared will succeed, and many times that includes those who work and try the hardest. These select individuals will “win the gold” whether that gold is an A grade or a job offer, promotion, or bonus. Others will not.
When we enter the classroom or the workplace, we are not automatically entitled to the “gold” just by being there. We all must prove ourselves worthy. There is an old expression heard frequently in business: “What have you done for me lately?” It means that we must continually prove our worth.
Unfair, you say? Perhaps, but it’s the truth. But the good news for both student and employee is that in both settings, there can be more than one gold medalists — more than one student can earn an “A”, and more than one employee can earn a job offer, promotion, or bonus. All it takes is the right attitude, a strong work ethic, and discipline.