My new book Sons and Daughters just released and I love the conversations that have started, especially from this chapter that I call “Fake Trophies”.

My daughter, Callie, played soccer this year on a recreational team that got “rode like a rented mule” every Saturday for four months straight. Callie is a fairly competitive kid and played well during practices and games, but not everyone shared her zest for the sport. In fact, based on empirical evidence, I can say that there were girls on her team who didn’t even know there was a ball on the field.

At the end of the season, Callie and her teammates were invited to a pizza party, along with all of the other teams in her league. The coaches made a big deal about the girls’ involvement and then proceeded to hand out trophies to each and every girl. Regardless of whether she was part of a winning team or a losing team, regardless of whether she dribbled like a pro or ever even made contact with the ball, every single player received a trophy—the same trophy as everyone else.

I think there’s a correlation here, between this ubiquitous sheltered existence and the fact that we’ve got a rash of twenty-somethings still living in their parents’ basements, with no plans to leave, no plans to achieve, and nothing but time on their hands. They were never challenged as kids, they never learned how to compete, and they’ve never been forced to recover from failure. Now they find themselves aimless and passionless and weak, while we shake our heads in disbelief.

Between the years 1940 and 1970, as a country we sent people into space, we invented computers, we created suburbia, and we revolutionized automobile technology. This was a generation that had endured a world war, had been challenged in combat, and had parents who had survived the Great Depression or had survived the Depression themselves. Competition was a celebrated part of the culture, and winning and losing mattered deeply. Heroes were honored for their victories, and grace was disbursed to the defeated. Losers learned tough lessons, and winners had to practice harder to stay on top. It was an age of innovation and persistence in the face of challenge and turmoil and angst. And every member of that generation was better for having prevailed. They understood the value of improving and overcoming. They didn’t need fake trophies to prop themselves up. Hard work was deeply honored, as opposed to mere limp participation.

This is just an excerpt from this chapter. Read the entire book and then let me know your thoughts.

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