Today, President Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Hmm. Award nominations closed on February 1, 2009, only weeks after he was sworn into office. How in the world does this happen?
Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland stated that “He got the prize because he has been able to change the international climate.” Wow, so in two weeks, Obama was able to change the entire international climate? I hardly think so.
While this accolade is turning out to have mixed feelings from everyone—just type in “obama nobel peace prize joke” into any search engine—what’s even more disturbing is the trend in our culture to reward people for potential, not performance.
Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley talked about this same issue on Oprah a couple of years ago, in regards to the NBA. Check out this 1:23 clip (YouTube)
What’s most disturbing about this is not that NBA, NFL and now political players are being rewarded based on potential, but that it’s molding our psyche’s to value and expect the same for us. This is an infection that will know no limitations.
Yesterday, I was talking to a good friend about the traits versus the character of leadership. Traits are things that we can mimmick. Character is molded by experience.
Perhaps the parrallels are the same?
Oprah asked Michael Jordan if part of the reason why LeBron and others get these massive deals based on potential are because of his, and others, successes. Of course they are. Michael Jordan showed us what skill and talent look like and when others come a long that are able to exhibit those same traits, they are immediately rewarded as if they can execute at the same level.
During a recent Sunday Night Football game, the announcers were talking about Brett Favre’s success. They stated that when he first started in the NFL he would throw 3000-5000 passes a day. Today, he only has to throw 50-60.
In a previous post, I talked about the 10,000 hour theory; that you can’t become a master of anything until you’ve invested at least 10,000 hours into practicing your skill.
Truth of the matter is this, while people may possess the traits of leadership, skill or experience, until they have invested a significant amount of time into practicing it, rewarding people based on potential does more damage than good.
Oprah asks Michael Jordan if paying kids based off of potential was bad and Jordan responded by saying “…it sets [a] bad work ethic. When you get something so easily, you’re not going to work as hard.”
I couldn’t agree more.
So, Mr. President, congratulations on accepting an award based on your potential. I only hope that you can live up to your own hype.