Archive for June, 2019

Reap Rewards Shamelessly

My wife and daughter recently returned from a two-week European vacation, which my daughter earned by achieving a goal we had set together. If you followed her or me on social media, you saw some amazing photos. It was an extravagant, but well-deserved reward that initially made me a little uncomfortable.

It’s not in my nature to concern myself too much about what other people think, but that’s what I did. If I saw the extravagance and indulgence, so did other people. Were we being insensitive to those facing financial and other struggles? Should we have used those resources in other ways? Those worries were fleeting though, as I considered the importance of rewards and what she did to earn the trip.

When my son was being recruited for football, to add extra motivation, my wife and I promised him an African safari, if he landed a full-ride Division One football scholarship. Our theory was that we could fund the trip with the money we planned to spend on his education. Once the first scholarship was offered, talk of Africa began.

My daughter isn’t an athlete, but she is a remarkably driven and focused teenager. Two years behind her brother, she watched how the work he put in earned him a scholarship and a trip, and she vowed to match his success and earn a trip for herself. Lynda and I never doubted her determination, but we knew how difficult it was to earn a full scholarship (one that includes room, board and expenses, in addition to tuition), especially a non-athletic scholarship, so we were skeptical.

We were even more skeptical when her first ACT score came in much lower than it needed to be to qualify for a prestigious scholarship. She, however, was undeterred, and resolved to get a score that better fit her expectations of herself. She studied for the next test religiously, while maintaining a straight-A average in advanced classes. On her second attempt, she cut the gap between her last score and her desired scored in half. In her third attempt, she achieved the same score as the second test. Finally, on the fourth test, after incredible dedication and work, she achieved a qualifying score.

The score qualified her for admission into the Scott Scholars Program – an extremely prestigious program and scholarship – the one she targeted when she set her goal two years earlier. Still, even with a qualifying test score, admission in the Scott Scholars Program is far from guaranteed. Admission also requires an exemplary high school record, including extracurricular activities, and a successful, in-person interview. Just like the test score, Kelly achieved her goals in those areas too, and was admitted into the program just before Christmas.

Rewards can be tremendous motivators, and it’s important that we allow ourselves to enjoy them, especially if we made tremendous sacrifices and exerted uncommon effort to earn them. My wife and I believe that sacrifice and effort are crucial for success. We taught both kids that, in order to live an exceptional life, they needed to perform at an exceptional level and exert exceptional effort. I suspect that both kids would have achieved their goals without the promise of a trip, but the trips reinforced the lesson of exceptional living.

It’s important to reward the effort and achievement for those under our influence and as well as for ourselves. Seeing the smile on my daughter’s face as she experienced an incredible part of the world for the first time drove that point home, and it eased any concerns I might have had about how the trip might be perceived.

Set lofty goals for yourself and attach lofty rewards for their achievement. Doing that will help you live the exceptional life that’s within your grasp.


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