I loved, loved, loved it when in Meet the Fockers (2004), Gaylord Focker’s parents sex therapist Roz and retiree Bernie (played by Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman) revealed their ‘wall of Gaylord’ displaying all of his lack-lustre ‘achievements’.
There were no gold medals, no first prizes. Gaylord, expertly played by Ben Stiller, was clearly an ‘also ran’ and was embarrassed, awkward, and confused by his parents’ unquestioning and unwavering pride in him. Especially as he was at that very moment failing in his attempts to impress Jack, his rigid and high-performing potential father-in-law, (Robert de Niro, no less), who observed he “didn’t know they made ninth place ribbons”. His loss I say. Jack never had to imagine them. He no doubt came in first place or at least the top three. That’s privilege that is.
For the rest of us, it’s reality. Meanwhile, Bernie tells us it “isn’t about winning or losing, it is about passion. We just wanted him to love what he is doing.” Well said that father. Maybe we should all be more Bernie. Champions don’t need medals or trophies. They achieve in life, in championing for other people, or for a good cause.
That was also one of my take-aways from Marcus Rashford’s book (You Are A Champion). Champions take the honourable role of caring for those around them, or changing the world for the better, rather than the compliance of measuring against previously set standards or records.
I wish they gave out prizes at school for absence, defiance, rebellion, innovation – not qualities welcomed at school, (especially some of the secondary schools I have visited). These qualities are highly desirable in life and at work and should be encouraged not stifled. For the record, there were no sports prizes in my bedroom – but there were art, class, and year prizes (I brag).
This can all sit awkwardly with modern twenty-first century life. And that’s not just a problem, it feels like a conspiracy. We are all living in stretch-goal-orientated, self-publishing, social-media-filtered, fast-moving, hyphenated-times. Too much of this frenetic activity is causing us to overlook, underappreciate, or devalue the middle.
I say embrace the average. That’s the real winning language of champions.