Participation Trophies

I was out with a bunch of millenials last night. It's interning for me because I was probably more than twice as old as most of them. Some of them probably made more than twice as much money than I. We were hanging out on a roof top of a building where Google has offices down in SoMA in San Francisco.


One of the guys kept throwing his hands up or shrugging anytime someone made a comment he didn't like. In talking to him, I sensed that he felt he was too good to hang out with us. One of the girls told him he could leave and didn't have to stay. Lo and behold, he did not.

"What's going on  man?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Just bored."

“So what do you want to do?”

"I don't know. Go home and sleep."

As you can see, we had a very deep conversation about life.

Throughout the night, he made disparaging comments about some of the women. And I wasn't sure if he was trying to pickup on them by negging them. I could tell by talking to these ladies that they were sure of themselves. Not that you couldn't banter with them, but negging only works with women who have low confidence or self esteem. These women want the approval of others, so when someone negs them, they may feel the need to prove their worth. This awful dance of predator and prey helps contribute to the idea that women want assholes. What women want is someone who's confident. And being an asshole is a facade that looks like confidence. But it's really just temperament.

I'm not a pickup artist, so I'll end my rant on the subject here.

The reason I'm talking about this particular person is because he seemed to feel that he knew everything. Or that he's on another level above. And that reminded me of myself when I was his age. There were moments where I thought I knew it all. What I wanted. What life was about.

I was completely wrong.

As I get older, I'm realizing how much more there is to learn, especially when it comes to the things that I'm passionate about: writing, storytelling, relationships, health and fitness. The more knowledge and wisdom I attain, the more that I want to know. At least that's how it feels. However, there are two consoling thoughts.

The easy one is this: You only need to know what you need to know when you need to know it.


A couple of years ago, I bought a sedan. The key fob couldn't unlock the car remotely, so I had to insert the key into the door and twist to unlock it. How could anyone live like that? Who unlocks a car with the actual key? Spoiled much? I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on how to take apart the car door, how to remove the locking mechanism, and replace it with a new one. I had to do this for three of the four doors. Needless to say, I got pretty proficient. After I sold the car my knowledge of taking the door apart slowly faded away. Still, if I had to do it again, it'd be easier, but I'd still have to watch the video just to refresh my memory.

The second consoling thought is that people can learn as they work toward something. For me, I learn the best this way because I'm applying what I need to know when I need it. At work we have these trainings that we have to attend. The way it works is that someone spits knowledge as they flip through the slides. I'm mainly a kinesthetic learner. In other words, I learn by doing. Imagine someone teaching you how to swim by telling you how to swim. And then he throws you into a pool. Good luck.


Writing was very much like the swimming example. I jumped into the deep end of the pool and wrote my first novel. It sucked. Then I read books on writing and then applied what I learned as I wrote. The second novel sucked. Spending the next four years rewriting required that I learn more about writing and story, which improved the novel. Somewhat. The next step was hiring a writing coach. She accelerated the learning process for me by being blunt, which was a great thing. Sugarcoating how bad my writing was would only slow my progression. It’s like getting participation trophies. They may soften the blow of a loss, and in doing so may not allow that person to process that loss and learn from it. The next step in the process has been passing what I've learned to my writing group. A writing group is really important because we get to discuss and trade ideas on each other's pages. Doing this has helped me cement the lessons my writing coach had taught.

The temperament that one knows all only stops the learning. Or at the very least leaves the person closed to new ideas. Obviously, not all ideas are good or useful. But you'll never know until you listen.