Screenshot 2024-01-29 at 2.29.17 PM

How Not Getting A Crappy Ribbon Changed My Life

I’m telling a story that’s around 50 years old, so some of the details might be a bit off, but the lesson learned is as powerful as if it happened yesterday.

My father drove me to my first city-wide track meet in the early ’70s. One of the first things I noticed was the ribbons awarded to the kids for placing in their respective events. I remember telling my father how badly I wanted one. After the competition was over, I was devastated because I was going home empty-handed. I can’t remember what my father said to me, but it must have been good because I became motivated for the first time in my life.

I’m not sure if the ribbon in this picture was the one I won at the next meet. Still, at that moment, I was so proud to have a ribbon that I earned I became even more motivated not only to continue to win ribbons but get 1st place ribbons, medals, and trophies.

In only a few short years, I won the Junior Olympic National Championship and the attention of college scouts across the country, which ultimately earned me a track scholarship at the greatest track program in college sports history, with 42 national championships at the time of this writing to its credit.

In the 70s, there were no such things as participation trophies, and just showing up wasn’t good enough. The little ribbons we took home meant something.

I’m convinced that if I got a “you suck” participation trophy, I know I would have never had an all-American and conference champion career at the University of Arkansas. I would have left happy, proud of just showing up.

Anything worth having takes time, energy, effort, and desire.