The Trophy Generation

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The Trophy Generation

By: Heather Snodgrass


I started running cross-country in 6th grade and I can’t tell you how much I hated it. The only reason I didn’t quit after the first week is because, in my family, you finished what you started. Every single race until halfway through 7th grade, I stopped and walked at least once during the excruciatingly long 1.9 miles. Yet, every single time I crossed the finish line, even if I was dead last, I got a ribbon.

That ribbon was given with the best intentions, and I’m pretty sure I still have every one that I “won”, but it taught me that I didn’t have to be the best to be the best. I didn’t have to win to be a winner. I could succeed without succeeding.

Oh, what a dangerous lesson.

If I have learned anything in my short year and a half since graduating college and entering what they call “the real world”, it’s that I don’t deserve anything. Just because I was the director of Special Olympics and got all A’s (okay fine, all B’s) and was a student athlete in college (I ran cross country. Funny, right?), doesn’t mean I’m entitled to a Director or Manager or Executive position. It doesn’t mean people are supposed to treat me like I’m royalty or anything.

If I want to be the best, I’m probably going to have to start at the bottom and work harder than anyone else until I’m at the very top. And if I start slacking once I get to the top, I’m not going to be at the top for long.

The same goes for us as leaders. If I want to someday lead hundreds and maybe even thousands, I have to work hard at honing my leadership skills right now. I can’t just do nothing and hope that someday the world will wake up to see how great of a leader I am. At 23 years old, I’m probably not going to be trusted to stand on a stage and lead thousands of people, but maybe I’m trusted with one single assignment that someone else wasn’t able to do. Or maybe I’m given with an intern that I get to guide through the next couple of months. Or maybe I’m chosen to lead a short-term team as we market such and such to success.

At the end of the day, if I work from the trophy-generation mindset and expect to be given things I feel I deserve, I’m not going to work as hard as I should, and I’m going to end up disappointed with the work I’ve done and ultimately with the life I’ve lived. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that may help you as you try to navigate the real world under the label of ‘trophy generation’:

Don’t take it personally…it’s just business. This is hard, oh so hard. Especially as a creative person, when you reject my work, I feel like you’re rejecting me. My mom always told me I was talented, so why are you telling me I’m not? This is something I’ve really struggled to learn. Speaking up is already tough for me, so when I speak up about an idea I have and get rejected, it makes me want to curl up in a little ball and stay there forever. If I do that every time someone doesn’t like my idea, though, I’ll never get anywhere in life. I guarantee, though, when people dismiss an idea of mine, it’s not because they don’t think I’m ‘good enough’ as a person, it’s because they think the idea needs some work or isn’t quite right for the project as a whole.

Always go the extra mile. Like I said earlier, leading doesn’t necessarily mean holding a leadership position. If you want to be seen as a leader, though, you have to act as one, and part of that means striving for excellence and going above and beyond in everything you do. As millennials, we’re expected to fall into the apathetic and lazy categories, but that doesn’t have to be who we are! If you want to actively defy the ‘trophy generation’ label, always go the extra mile.

Never stop learning. Just because school’s out doesn’t mean the learning can or should stop. As leaders, it’s crucial that we never stop learning…about anything and everything. I just finished a book about how Nike came to be; my husband is reading about Chick-fil-A’s strategy and just ordered another book about how the Navy Seals lead. Learn about how other organizations do things, how some of your favorite leaders lead, best practices in your field, etc. If you really want to humble yourself, start learning about how some of the world’s greatest leaders got to where they are today…I guarantee none of them got there because they were handed the position.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”297″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]Heather Snodgrass works at Cross Point Church as the Bellevue Dream Center Coordinator, where she oversees the DCS Safe Room and the adult special needs ministry. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, Taylor.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][/vc_row]