Winners, Losers, Technology, and Life

Someone close to me once confided in me after her son committed suicide that she wished she’d taught him coping skills, then she asked me how it was that my mom managed to instill this ability in my sister and me. Although I gave her an answer, her regret had stuck with me. We’ve all heard that hindsight is 20/20, but for her this was a very painful reality with no ‘do overs.’

As she talked, there were things that she looked back on and wondered ‘what if.’ What if she’d worried a little less about him feeling accepted? What if she allowed other family members to voice criticism instead of not allowing anything negative to be said? What if she’d taken her children to church more often? What if they hadn’t given him everything he ever wanted?

It seems to me that two things in our society have been rapidly and consistently gaining large ground. They’re not exactly what I’d call bad or evil, just dangerous if not balanced…and we’re not. Balanced, that is. It’s become a bit of an epidemic and it’s starting early.

When did losing become evil? Countless numbers of my friends and family have talked about the concept of not keeping score for the youngsters just starting out in organized sports or no grades on a report card. The concern is that children need to feel accepted. (And probably to deter the hyper competitive parents from causing scenes.) Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for acceptance, but there are several very important life lessons to be learned in both winning and losing. As for the parents? If you’ve watched Dance Moms or any of the kiddie beauty pageant shows you know that those kinds of people are going to be that way with or without a score.

The first lesson is you’re not always going to be good at everything right away and that’s okay. Some are going to have certain natural gifts while others will need to work at it. There are countless examples from Michael Jordan to Emmitt Smith who were told they weren’t good enough, or big enough, or talented enough to make it, but with hard work and dedication to their dream, they still found a way to make it happen. The second is that there will always be naysayers in your life. It’s your choice whether or not to give them the power to give up your dreams. Third is that regardless of how badly you may want something, sometimes you just won’t have the ability and/or tools to make that dream a reality. It doesn’t mean you stop dreaming…it just means you learn from it; discover the things you are good at and find another dream.

Of course there are also the obvious lessons. Learning to be graceful as you’re winning or losing. Learning that losing a battle doesn’t mean you’ve lost the war. It just may be a temporary setback. Shaking an opponent’s hand in recognition of their job well done (or maybe yours), while strategizing on what you can do to improve your own results next time. Most importantly, winning doesn’t make you a better person than everyone else, and losing isn’t the end of the world. After all, in the real world, no one is going to pull punches. You won’t get a job just because you applied. You may lose a job or relationships. If you’ve never been taught how to handle them as a child, how will you know what to do when you lose the shield of parents and/or youth?

The other thing I’ve noticed is how completely we’ve allowed technology and social media to take over our lives, and not in a good way. Direct communication with people is becoming less and less frequent, and it’s everyone’s loss. By not looking someone in the eyes and talking, we’re becoming desensitized to the people around us.

Twice in the last two days I’ve cringed over the lack of care shown at the devastation of others seen online. I choose not to post the video clip or articles from the two events, but many of you may recognize the stories anyway (and may have seen them for yourselves).

The first happened on Saturday when a close friend expressed her rage over a video clip seen on Facebook. It was supposed to depict the dangers of texting and driving; a message with which I firmly agree. Her problem? When she’d clicked the video she thought it would be a reenactment, but it wasn’t. It was, in fact, a live videotaping of a motor vehicle accident where fatalities and severe injuries had occurred, recorded in all it’s gory glory. Besides the deceased in the video, there were the injured people. The problem was that while all this was being recorded it showed the severely wounded lying on the ground, people (including police) milling around, the injured appearing to be all but ignored. The person recording not being asked to stop. This video was put up on YouTube for the world to watch. It made my friend and I wonder if they took the families of the dead and wounded into account.

The second item was of a young lady who was allegedly drugged, then raped. Apparently she had no idea this even occurred until she discovered that nude and compromising photos of her went viral. One of the perpetrators to the alleged crime sent out all sorts of mocking tweets about the night in question after she went to the police. A potential rape victim splattered online, mocked, then bullied? Are we really so desensitized to the pain of others that this doesn’t bother us?

Then, as if the universe was sending me a message, I heard something coming from the living room. Last night, while I was working on a project, my hubby was watching Girl Meets World (Yeah, we were both Boy Meets World fans, so we decided to check out the new show). The subject turned out to be cell phones! How utterly appropriate, right?

Turns out, Cory has followed in Mr. Feeny’s footsteps, and is now teaching the lessons. I loved that he forced his class to go “old school.” In the beginning of the episode his daughter couldn’t even say “hello” to her crush. It had to come through her phone. By the end….

Maybe I’m over reacting. I mean, I’m the girl who didn’t even have a tv in her home until she was 7. I lived in other countries without the benefit of a phone in my own home until I was 10. I didn’t play video games growing up. I climbed trees, played tackle football in the yard, played school and library (my mom made me stop trying to collect actual late fees on my “library books” from my sister). I wrote my own stories and told them to my younger siblings to entertain them. Am I saying the way I was raised is the right way and everyone else’s is wrong? Not at all! I’m simply saying that maybe we need to find a way to be more engaged in the world around us again instead of hiding behind our phones, tablets, and computer screens.

Care to share your thoughts?

29 thoughts on “Winners, Losers, Technology, and Life

  1. I agree with everything you’ve said! I am so tired of life having to be ‘fair’ for kids. Some of these young people are going to feel like they’ve been slapped in the face when they get out into the real world.

    Okay, I’m leaving it there. This started to turn into a combination novel/rant. Let’s just say I will never buy a ticket for the PC train. And if I see someone I know texting and driving, I’ll share a piece of my mind. A big and loud piece of it. :D

  2. Amen. Kitt Crescendo for Presient! I’m so tired of having to censure every single thing. Sometimes we have to say what needs to be said. Sometimes we have to lose. Sometimes we have to get hurt. How would we recognize and appreciate the good if we never experienced the bad?

    And it is a real shame that nobody takes the time to talk to anybody any more. I attended an event this weekend where I didn’t know a soul, except the friend who invited me to go with her. We shared a table with 6 other strangers, we sat, we talked, we laughed, we had fun. We learned so much and shared some lovely experiences. Let’s do this more often. Let’s get off the phones and computers and TALK to people.

    Okay, I’m done now.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • You’re so right! How else will we know not to take our special moments for granted?

      As for your weekend…it sounds like a blast! We need more moments like those. It’s one of the things I loved most about my Savannah trip last year. Getting to hang out with old friends & make new ones!

  3. Thank goodness I did not see either of those videos in my fb feed. How awful! You are so right about the desensitization of horrific scenes. It makes it so we don’t react appropriately to situations and adds to the lack of empathy seen in people. It goes back to the good ‘ol word, moderation. The extremes are what get us in trouble. :)

  4. I absolutely agree with you because I’m finding the gap between myself and my children to be enormous. Children now cannot walk, sit, talk, go to the movies, or eat at restaurants without texting, constantly filling the ‘void’ of not being entertained. There’s no such thing as hobbies or doing something out in the world without their iphones.
    I have a mobile phone that I leave in the boot of my car for emergencies. That’s good enough for me.
    People think this is evolution, but it’s not. The devices, programs and apps are things that were invented and marketed at us, regardless of whether they’re good for us. We’re kidding ourselves, and we’re losing the battle. We’re losing our passions. We can pretend we’re paying attention, or we can say times have changed and that all this technology helps us, but our brains are being rewired to suit the whims of app-sellers and device marketers. In the process, we’re losing our love for the things we should hold dearest.

  5. Couldn’t agree with you more here, Kitt. I don’t know what the answer is in regard to the desensitization of people. Like you, I grew up playing outside and while we had a TV, we didn’t have cable so this made watching the boob tube less desirable. I often wonder how younger generations will turn out – my niece and nephew aren’t even two and can figure out how to flip through photos on an iPhone. It’s hard to teach compassion when there is no human interaction.

  6. Couldn’t agree more, Kitt. Time we sit back and introspect…are we raising heartless robots ? Are we losing the human touch ?
    Thanks for posting it on Susie’s party..I would have missed it otherwise :)

  7. This has been a big concern of mine too. Sure, it’s great to build confidence in a kid, but they need to learn how to handle disappointments too. Both of my kids played on JV teams, not able to make varsity. When the going got tough, I never let them quit. Looking back, both of them have coping skills. Some of that is due to nature, some from nurture.

    Thanks for bringing this hop topic to the party! Have fun clicking on links and meeting the guests! See you on the dance floor, Kitt!

    • Heck, yeah! Doing my ooga-chacka dance a la Ally McBeal!

      I’m so glad other people have noticed the imbalance. The best part of life is in the learning and growing (aka living it)! :-)

  8. I headed up HR for several startups. One thing I learned early on from a brilliant boss was to ask about failures (obviously, usually work related). I’d ask what they would do differently next time. And if someone had been a principal in a business, I figured they had learned ten times as much about what could go wrong as someone who’d only seen success.

    Like you, I worry about a culture where people aren’t allowed to fail because that will damage their ego. Our local school district abolished grades, because they made some students feel bad. Another school wasn’t allowed to compete in an annual scientific competition because their constant wins made some other schools feel bad. At work I had to resist constant pressure to give across-the-board salary increases because it would be more fair.

    The problem is that the only way to make failure a crime is to punish success as well.

    Obviously, coming out of technology, I tend to doubt that it represents the doom of civilization as we know it. (Part of me is picturing a couple of cave people looking at the first wheel, shaking their heads, and worrying that all the kids will be doing it.) But I will say that we have to remember that they’re just tools. Stacking cellphones when you’re at a restaurant or having inter-office email moratorium days are great ways to remember that. [True confession: I once replaced an attorney because he refused to check voice or email on vacation. I’ll probably go to hell.]

    This is such an excellent post, saying some things that won’t be popular. A bit heavy for mid-summer, but Susie’s Riders can handle it. Back to the party?

    • I wholeheartedly agree with you about technology not representing doom. I just think we forget that it is not a substitute for true human connection.

      I truly loved reading your thoughts on these matters. Your question regarding failures during interviews was one of my favorite as a hiring manager. One of the best I’d heard was when a potential hire told me he failed as a manager & explained that he had been too young, unprepared, uneducated about what makes a leader…and that he had been too afraid to ask for help. To ensure it wouldn’t happen again, he went back to school, read up on leadership books & learned that no man is an island. He also learned that asking for help did not make him weak. It actually made him smart. :-) Yeah. I hired him.

  9. I am so with you on this! Great post. I am so sick of hearing parents whine about their kids not getting a trophy, not getting into the best class, not having them featured up front, not being picked first, blah blah blah.

    When did we become a society of wussies? When we grew up you either won or you lost. Period. Losing is part of life, and we learn from it to do better and succeed the next time. No one got a trophy for finishing last. The score was the reason to play the game. It makes us strive to succeed. All the parents of this generation are doing is bringing up soft children who feel everything should be handed to them. Get over it, as life is not fair,

    A major part of the problem are the overpriviledged spoiled parents who can’t bear to see little Johnny or Jane not be the shining star all the time. Gag me I want to vomit.

    Love Susie’s parties!

    • What the parents you alluded to above seem to forget is that it’s not about them. It’s about their children. How well parents often handle these learning opportunities often dictates how their children handle it, as well.

    • Actually, I’m more optimistic about a lot of the younger people, those I’ve hired and just those I come across. They seem to have it more together than I remember being at their age. [And no, I don’t want to hear about the different approaches to drug use. It was the eighties people. Deal.]

      I do see that my own kids and their friends look at workaholic parents and wonder really if it’s worth it. They’ve seen us working high stress jobs and putting in incredible hours and still our companies fail, jobs are lost, careers damaged. They may be absolutely right to think we did our best to screw them up. They may also be right to look for a better way.

      • I’ve seen a mix of both. I’ve had employees who have been fantastic, but didn’t know how to deal with rejection, which, in sales, can be a problem. But they’ve been hungry to learn & driven to be better. I’ve also had employees who thought tenure should dictate promotion v. Hard work. Or ones who have called out because it’s a nice day & they wanted to go to the beach.

        Of course, I know older people who’ve done the same thing.

    • agreed Phil – that’s what the scars on my knees are from, trying and failing.. but the failure pointed me in another direction and I learned and grew up… have a great week!

      • Thanks for that, Clay! That was one of my other points. Sometimes failing helps you find other dreams to which you’re better suited. That’s not weakness or quitting. It’s learning yourself, cataloging your pros and cons, and creating a stronger, better you! :-)

  10. Nice insights. You might be encouraged by this: during the past four years, in the local university I have never seen a student texting or even using a mobile device in a classroom. And almost all of the students are polite and considerate. Both facts were pleasant surprises, because I’d been away from academia for a while.”

  11. Kitt… this post resonates on so many levels… I worry about this generation – my kids, but I believe deep down, they’ll figure it out just like we did. I always felt others had it better than me when I was growing up, I had friends who had vacation homes and nice cars… we didn’t and drove a beat up ’69 VW bug stylin’ with no AC in south Texas and I visited my dad in England for a month… but everyone else seemed to have it better… fast forward to today and my kids and similar complaints, everyone has it better when we have it pretty darn good… I think it’s a developmental learning thing… as for the necessity to have a cell phone, my school has begun to incorporate BYOT – bring your own technology and to channel the power of technology but in a good way, yeah we have texting and some poor choices going on but much less than we did prior to embracing the shift… we passed notes and made snarky mean comments, they will too…but teaching kids resilience and perseverance is important.. great post, thanks for letting me share. Have a great week!

    • Isn’t it funny how when we hear young people complaining about the same things we do, we get a bit nostalgic? We remember those time and smile realizing they’re at the beginning of a potentially awesome adventure. They just don’t know it yet.

      I’m glad to hear embracing tech seems to have curbed some of the prior issues. Fingers crossed that the resilience & perseverance lessons are sinking in.

Don't Be Shy, Reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s