If political correctness has become the phrase that dismisses some conversations outright as simply unimportant, the participation trophy has become the symbol for a generalized lack of effort, when winning and losing don’t matter and showing up is all that’s required.
Enter Mike Baker and Joe Rogan.
Around 56 minutes, Baker transitions the conversation to changes coming to Monopoly, then the two move into a discussion of youth sports — the first few years of organized sports, they don’t keep score. The kids all kept score in their heads, but the adults wouldn’t want them to experience losing.
“We’re getting to a weird point,” Rogan says, “where we’re trying to coddle people, to not let them feel defeat.” Those people are now in college, and, adds Baker, “they think that being contradicted means they’re being persecuted.”
Losing, feeling uncomfortable, Rogan points out, is how we grow.
And he’s right, I think. If you’re never uncomfortable as a child, you won’t deal with it well as an adult — and there are plenty of opportunities to feel uncomfortable as an adult, whether you want to or not.
This goes way beyond being politically correct, but let’s start there.
I think I’m part of the generation somewhat at fault for political correctness. In high school, we demanded recognition for everybody. We changed language. In the religious services we performed, we either took out masculine language or anywhere Biblical men were listed in prayers, we added their female counterparts. We rebelled against our parents’ feminism, which we found to be a search for female privilege, favoring instead “equalism.”
Sometime after the mid-1990s, though, things went off the rails, and today, it seems that if people disagree with you, you think you’re being bullied. And if someone doesn’t learn 30 new pronouns and ask you each day which one applies to you, you’re being marginalized.
Colleges and universities are offering “safe zones” and telling professors to watch themselves under threat of firings and lawsuits. It used to be you’d learn activism via liberalism or conservatism from professors. Now if an educator holds an opinion that’s contrary to anyone, the biggest worry is being labeled a bully.
It seems mental or emotional discomfort is equated with a feeling of being unsafe.
Look, if you’re always comfortable, you’re never going to grow.
And while you should certainly spend as many years of your life as possible living in such a way that allows you to feel physically safe, we need to understand that not getting your way all the time is not a physical threat. Remember hearing, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Now actually take a look at what those words mean.
I’m totally good with the notion that new words crop up and that words that didn’t used to be offensive become that way. But in the same way you don’t want to learn the names of 30 types of trees that are new to you, I don’t want to learn 30 new words that each describe two dozen people in the world. I’d rather just not have those 600 people in my life. And if that’s the sort of thing you want your educators worrying about, you’re contributing to the fact that more college grads than ever are finding themselves unemployed.
But let’s move on from political correctness.
Let’s talk about discomfort.
Let’s start with “moving outside your comfort zone.” This is entirely valid. It’s a great way to start to grow. It’s being critical of others with your real name on your social media accounts and comment profiles. It’s running your first mile. It’s quitting the Propecia and shaving your head.
After you’ve had a taste of the growth that comes from stepping outside your comfort zone, you can actually start getting uncomfortable. Lift some weights. Run your first 5k. Or your first half-marathon or your first marathon — take the chance of getting hurt, or actually get hurt. See that it’s not that bad.
Are you doing pretty well on your side gig? Maybe it’s time to take that jump and go off on your own. What’s the worst that can happen? You need to find another day job?
Eliminating competition as a child and taking out emotional discomfort as a young adult makes for adults who are scared to play with fire, scared of failure, afraid to lose.
You can’t win if no one loses, and winning never feels good if you don’t know what losing feels like. Success might feel good, but it feels so much better if you have previously failed.
And if you have previously failed, or lost, or been hurt, the corresponding success or victory or survival is leaps and bounds stronger than it would be without having first been down.
Remember your U.S. history? America was started by people who were so uncomfortable they got up, left, then fought with guns against their oppressors. They could be killed for practicing their religion. They were subject to high taxes without having a say in their government. They were locked up for being who they are. Now, we just want the people who want us to think to be fired and bankrupt.
Let’s all raise our bars. Let’s all get uncomfortable, then let’s all grow and conquer. Don’t let’s all meet in the middle. Let’s meet at the top or not at all.
Take a little motivation from Amelia Boone (@arboone11 on Instagram)