From an early age, I noticed that school systems (or at least the ones that I was a part of) tried very hard to make sure that, at some point, everyone won. The most common way of doing this was through rules which stated that winning certain prizes disqualified you from even being in the running for further ones, in order to give others a better chance.


The effect of this, as explained by Michael Brunner, the chief executive of a full-service advertising agency, is that:

young adults … grew up believing that everyone wins. … it’s not true. And that expectation is bad news for companies that need hungry, battle-tested teams that know it’s unacceptable to come in second or third’.

In my view, this method of trying to include everyone by telling them that they are all winners definitely does more harm than good.

Apart from undermining the efforts of those that actually fairly come out on top, it gives children a very warped view of the world, that they take into adulthood. They grow up thinking that just because they tried (or worse, because they simply took part), that they deserve to win, or to at least be given some sort of compensation for attending.

Stuart Ellman is another voice that points out how the millennial generation has been brought up:

‘everybody who participated got a trophy’.

I suppose we would all love for every single one of our efforts to be noticed, no matter the outcome. However, that is not the way of the world. People’s strengths lie in different places. You can try very hard at something, but unfortunately lack the talent for it. This is not to say that constant practise cannot make someone as good as somebody that has natural talent; but it is to say that liking something, and making an attempt, does not necessarily make you good (enough).

Some people are born with talent, of course. You could be extremely talented, and work very hard, and unfortunately there just happens to be someone else, also extremely talented, who works hard and is chosen over you. In short, neither effort nor talent entitles you to anything — though we have been led to believe the contrary.

Another problem with misleading children in this way is that, in the real world, one person can win everything. It is possible that in a group of people, one person will be the best at everything they are competing for.

I do understand why school systems do this. They are trying to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to feel appreciated and experience being a winner. However, although in theory this is a thoughtful idea, it ultimately has negative consequences as it leads people to feel entitled — and disappointment closely follows entitlement.

For instance Larry Alton, writes:

‘[i]n millennials’ case, some people from older generations believe millennials typically ask for a salary far higher than what they’re worth, or expect a job immediately after graduation from college, just because they graduated’.

Most people nowadays graduate from university believing that they know their worth, and the life they deserve to live. However, the reality is that many will overestimate their worth, and won’t be able to attain the life they think they are entitled to.

A big cause of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, stems from believing all your life that things will definitely go in a certain direction. But then, on entering the world, one quickly finds that just because you think you deserve something, it does not mean anyone is obligated to give it to you; or even give you a chance.

Doing well at university and having a certain amount of practical experience does not make you that competitive. What millennials seem to forget is that your employer is doing you more of a favour than you are doing them. No matter how great you have personally decided you are, there are at least a thousand others very similar to you all applying for the same job.

It is a sad reality, but I think learning to curb your expectations from a young age would make life significantly less dire for many of us.