Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Being Frank about encouragement and achievement

Did you hear about the Indiana kid that was accepted in all eight Ivy League schools? 
WTHR-TV reported Stefan Stoykov, a North Central High School senior moved to Indianapolis from Bulgaria with his family 10 years ago. He didn’t know a word of English and cried his first day in school. I don’t know what the future holds for him but so far, his story is truly inspiring. 
It’s what America is all about! Working smart, working hard, taking advantage of the opportunities and the resources at hand and becoming successful. 
I was inspired when I saw his story on TV during lunch hour a few days ago.
Years ago, I heard a Hollywood critic say that town uses words like “genius” all too frequently without considering what genius means.
I think that is true for the whole country. We are too quick to use superlatives.
People say they work hard. We say someone is brilliant. Really? Do we have many Einsteins running around? 
We applaud mediocre results.
It hasn’t happened in a long time, but occasionally we would receive a call from a well-meaning mom (usually mom; I don’t recall dads doing this.) 
Their son had tried out for sports but was on the bench nearly every game or meet. 
The newspaper sports reporters usually wrote about the same kids because those kids were just better than others on their team. Some were among the best in the state. 
But mom would call and very strongly suggest her son needed some encouragement in the form of newspaper coverage. 
One of the problems in America is lack of accountability and standards that are all too low. 
It’s true in my profession. 
We have many contests and I have won my share of them. I think I should have won on occasion when I lost to entries I didn’t think were as good but I probably won a few awards when other entries were truthfully stronger. 
The journalistic winners are usually recognized at a semi-formal luncheon or dinner in front of dozens or hundreds of their peers. That’s all well and good, but I know how too many of those contests are judged. One person reads all the entries in one group and picks the winner and maybe runner-up. 
So, what does that award presented in front of hundreds of our peers really mean? Not much, I’m afraid. It is one person's opinion. Perhaps on another day, he or she would have chosen another entry. 
It’s time we demand more of ourselves and demand more of one another. 
Accountability must be done in a positive manner but today we, like the mothers of the not-so-good athletes, have confused encouragement with achievement. 
Frank Phillips
The Brazil Times
Brazil, Indiana
(765) 918-8915 (cell)
Author of "Living in Victory" (an Easter story) available in paperback on Amazon.com and on Kindle