To Prize or Not To Prize…


Every time I look at her wall, I wonder if I ought to take these down.

Ava is proud of her awards. But sometimes I feel she thinks it’s a reflection of her self-worth, and it’s not. She constantly looks to fill the next nameless void.

It’s good to improve and accomplish skills and interests, but do we need to have the awards and trophies for all to see? Do we need them in order to confirm our value?

Our friend Howard earned a Harvard MBA. But he would never tell you that. Instead, he will tell you about his volunteer activities, his wedding officiant work and his editorials for The San Francisco Bay Times. Howard is cheerful, selfless and fulfilled.  I worry that Ava will develop ulcers by the time she’s 15. Her sense of accomplishment is always fleeting and then she’s right back to anxiety and stress as she strives to achieve another.

I want to do right by my daughters. My hope is always that they will be happy regardless of what the “world” says and that they will seek self-satisfaction before praise from others.


Academy Awards Night

paul newman
Paul Newman (Everett Collection)

Tonight, our school, the Mesa Academy for Advanced Studies, will recognize award winners.

Students grades 4 – 8 will receive a plaque or a certificate or a trophy for Perfect Attendance, Honor Roll (GPA) and outstanding work in extracurricular activities.

It’s a night to publicly celebrate hard work and dedication.

Students who earn these awards do so because they push themselves consistently. They work hard every day and they reach their self-made goals because they want to do their best all the time. Some may do it for their parents or for the recognition. Others do it because seeing anything but an “A” on their report card means “all is well” or “I’m OK.”

Recognizing your hard work and appreciating excellent work is important.

However, ribbons, plaques and trophies are extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic rewards are the most powerful and enduring of all motivators. Do it because you love it. Some of our most famous and beloved actors* worked for decades before winning the other Academy Award:

Humphrey Bogart

Paul Newman

John Wayne

Judi Dench 

Martin Scorsese

Morgan Freeman

Henry Fonda

Jessica Tandy

Before, during and after receiving their awards, they worked dutifully to perfect their craft.