“The Pretty Girl Gets Kissed”

jacksonJordanThat’s a quote by Phil Jackson from the book, The Jordan Rules. The book discusses, among other things, what fairness is in the context of Jordan’s career. Many believe he benefitted from preferential treatment in the league, and from referees specifically. Phil’s quote was his way of acknowledging these things do happen, and probably happened with Jordan. Michael was a great icon for the league. Everyone involved made a lot more money from his popularity.

Any day now Kobe Bryant will pass Jordan for third place all time scoring in the NBA. Kobe modeled much of his game after Michael, but in many ways has seemed more vulnerable and, dare I say, real, throughout his career. Are there Kobe rules? Nobody talks about it if there are. No one questions his grit and determination.

The debate rages. On the one hand people get frustrated that kids are rewarded too much just for being in the game. They say they need to learn that just doing something may not be good enough. Every kid can’t win the prize, etc.

The pendulum seems to be swinging that way for now, but let’t not lose sight of how we got there. It’s important that people – especially kids – ARE rewarded for trying. That’s what keeps them trying and encourages them to persevere. It’s important they learn at a young age that sometimes sticking it out is enough to give one an opportunity to rise up and achieve something, even if it isn’t always the originally intended outcome. It’s also important that we don’t squash the creativity out of them trying to get them to conform to everything we think is important.

Surely we don’t want to wake up and find ourselves in a world where it’s only winning, success and being right that counts, no? One where it’s only the pretty girls who get a guy? On the other hand, we aren’t going to be able to make a world worth living in if everyone feels entitled to get the prize just for showing up.

The challenge is that there are people who get something just for showing up, and then there are the people that learn to scratch and claw for every inch. Michael Jordan battled to attain a position where he was then given so much benefit of the doubt that other players felt he was playing by a different rulebook (leading Phil to the memorable quote). It’s a fancy way of saying, “life isn’t fair.”

It isn’t fair, but…have you ever noticed how unfair things seem to people who fail, and how relatively fair and balanced they often seem to people who succeed? It permeates everything. White people don’t notice the daily little injustices black people do (another post for another time). Men don’t notice how women are still objectified in the workplace. It’s everywhere, and we all know, even if we aren’t specifically noticing.

Likewise, we all know that guy or gal who seems unflappable. The one who just keeps coming and keeps trying, never seeming to get too discouraged, even when things happen that might derail others. Eventually the parts fall into place and one appears to be an overnight success at something, as if she has a special gift at whatever it is. Maybe it is a gift. Or maybe she is just pretty. Or maybe she really worked hard and became competent. Maybe she simply persevered.

Michael and Kobe are gifted, but they also worked their asses off, and had a lot of help.

Kids absolutely should get a prize just for showing up. They don’t always have to get THE prize. At the least the prize should be some joy, or that they get to learn and experience something, and then apply those lessons the next time. It’s up to us to give that to them. The important thing is that we do all we can to help ensure there is a next time for them. There are many things that lead to or contribute to success. Perseverance is the most common theme of all.


Remember, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. And even the mighty Jordan couldn’t do it through his own will alone. He needed Phil Jackson.

Ask for and accept help. But mostly, persevere. It’s not easy, but it’s just when it’s hardest that it’s most important to fight the fight. Do it for yourself. Encourage it in others. That’s the most beautiful thing of all.



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