Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Significance Paradox

In an era of participation trophies and black-belt factories we are losing Moments.

Brief moments in the grand timeline of a life, but moments of importance nonetheless. Moments when we pause and we make distinct the accomplishments of specific people who show up in specific ways distinguishing themselves in their community. We are losing the beauty of the Moments.

Collectively, society has a new phobia. The collective we is particularly cautious about recognition. Everyone gets a trophy. Show up (or not) and let enough time go by - and pay enough money - and you too can have a martial art black belt. We don't want anyone to feel left out.

No one should feel disappointed because they didn't earn something. No one should wistfully look to the future with I hope I get recognized someday hanging as an unspoken whisper on their lips. They should be recognized now. Breathing should get an award because somehow, NOT getting a Moment of recognition is interpreted as a categorical statement of perpetual insignificance.

Value is not a zero sum game. Recognition is not a zero sum game. Honoring someone's efforts is not zero sum. If your name is called out and you get an award and I do not - I am not the lesser for your Moment. There is joy in celebrating a friend or colleague's accomplishment.

This joy is available commensurate to the degree you are comfortable in your own skin. We are significant. We have impact. We are also fundamentally insignificant (do you know the name of the person who traveled across your patch of land 500 years ago? nope - that insignificant.) Significantly insignificant is one of the remarkable paradoxes of being conscious of our own existence.

A paradox is only a problem if we think it needs resolution. We are both significant and insignificant. And...THIS IS OKAY.

A few weeks ago I ordered a series of trophies and awards. For our kids program, we bought blinged out metal award monuments and medals. Kids like bling. For the adults, crystal engraved awards of various sizes and certificates for areas of recognition. On June 7th, we had our belt advancement ceremony for the kids and gave out a couple of trophies and medals. A couple. We have a couple dozen kids in our program.

Yesterday Kore Self-Defense & Krav Maga had our annual pool party which has evolved to be our adult award ceremony. We gave certificates for Testing Insanity and Training Perseverance. Engraved awards for Excellence in Training, Volunteer Bad-Ass, and a Student Leadership Award. Not everyone got an award. It's okay. If you can celebrate the accomplishments of your peers you are the stronger for it.

Pictures are getting posted from the party and awards recognized across social media today. Comments from people who were not the recipients. Members of our tribe celebrating the Moments of their friends and training partners.

We take these awards seriously. The leadership team at our facility meets and discusses the awards and the students. There is debate and eventual agreement. There is debate because pretty much all our students are significant to us. Spending a few minutes away from food, water and sun, we get to talk about why the awards are given.

We get to mention the student who turned her ankle at the beginning of a rank test and should have benched herself...and didn't. Who passed her test and then wore a boot for a month because...she should have benched herself. Or the student who travels a metric ton and seeks out places around the world to keep training so he can test - and handles with extreme grace having his rank "held" until he retests a couple of skills that aren't quite up to par. Or the student who for years has moved through a series of life events and eventually always returns to the mat and now is committed to bringing his experience to other students by becoming an instructor. Or the student who...

It is a beautiful gift to create a Moment for these people. We always hope of course, that the recipients feel honored. It's the giving of the recognition though, that I get to enjoy. There is a peace and joy in embracing the gratitude accompanying the opportunity to honor members of the tribe.

Being in the gallery applauding your colleague is okay. It means you are part of a tribe who authentically recognizes people for their Moments. It means you are part of a tribe that believes you are already strong and your strength stands. Your strength is complete as is - your strength is inherent and independent.

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