Todd Dewett | April 29, 2015
I was helping my son Paxon with his homework the other night. He asked about a particular math problem and I didn’t know the answer or how to figure it out. He was astounded. “Wait. Don’t you have a Ph.D.?” He asked.
I nodded. He laughed. He thought it was funny that his sixth grade problem stumped me. “Getting a Ph.D. isn’t about being a genius.” I said. “It’s really about blood, sweat, and tears as much as IQ.”
Pax looked confused.
I explained that “blood, sweat, and tears” was a phrase that refers to hard work, effort, and sacrifice. I told him what my father once told me, “There will always be people smarter than you, but you can always out work them.”
As I was talking I noticed he was wearing his favorite pair of Nike Jordans.
“Look at MJ,” I said as I pointed to the iconic logo on his shoes. “He wasn’t simply the most talented of all time. He was the guy who worked the hardest. Do you even know who Jordan is?”
“He’s the old guy they named the shoes after who was really good, right?” Pax said. I couldn’t believe my ears.
“Good? He’s the GOAT!” I yelled.
Pax looked puzzled.
“The Greatest of All Time!” I continued. “He helped create a championship three-peat – twice! Do you know why? Because he was the most talented ever? Maybe. Some people still argue about that point. The best answer is that he had the best work ethic ever. He was tenacious. He pushed himself to the limit. He clocked more hours than anyone else. He maximized his potential. He poured out more blood, sweat, and tears than anyone.”
As I wrapped up my tirade, I realized Paxon had already tuned me out. He was once again focused on his homework. I looked at his Jordans, his Nike socks, and his Polo shirt. I knew it would be up to me to make sure he did not become a completely spoiled and entitled brat. He must understand what it means to work hard and earn things in life.
That’s when I decided to share my favorite Jordan quote with him. “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” You have to clock the hours and earn it.
Unfortunately, most observers agree – we have created a generation of highly entitled children who love material things and barely tolerate hard work. For many kids, hard work is just a nuisance that interferes with the “play dates” on their social calendar. It’s scary how far we’ve gone to ensure our kids have what we often did not. It’s common for families to ruin their finances just to create the Christmas experience demanded by their children. What? Kids want the Jordans but have no idea what it means to obtain them.
But don’t blame the kids. Or the companies marketing all of the products. Or the educational system that has so clearly failed. So, who is to blame? I believe parents are the main culprits. Not only have we given too much to our children while asking too little in return, we shield them from critical feedback that is crucial to their development.
Some parents refuse to hold their children accountable, preferring instead to blame their teachers. They don’t flinch when someone gives their child a trophy that was unearned, awarded for mere participation. They don’t scream when school systems begin to ban the grade “F” for fear it might hurt kids’ confidence. We are depriving children of many of life’s most important messages, yet parents don’t seem to care.
I don’t want to sound negative. I simply believe that more is possible. What if kids were taught to value hard work, taught to understand the immense value of failure in the service of learning and improving? What if they truly understand what it means to earn something? What if they embraced blood, sweat, and tears even more than television and video games?
Maybe then our children would once again be competitive with kids in other industrialized countries. Maybe then we’d see more kids working passionately in pursuit of goals that matter. Maybe then our kids would yearn to maximize their potential.
What if every parent shared MJ’s quote and encouraged their children to live up to that ideal? “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” Maybe then we’d have 10,000 more Jordans.