Don’t Take The Credit

Awards are overrated!

I received an email “sorry to bother, but would you mind voting for me? I’ve been nominated for an award!”. They were serious. I went and voted for their competitors out of spite.

Kidding!

In all honesty, it’s 2017.Who sends an email asking for a vote?

Ask on social media sure, maybe text or talk to your close friends.In my eyes the more people you have to ask to vote for you, the less you deserve the award.

I do realize this comes off as a rant from someone, who doesn’t win awards. Ha! You’d be right if you thought that, but I don’t think awards matter! Here are four individuals, who have put award winning on the back burner and focused on doing things that matter.

For every winner, there must be a loser. Every time you show, talk about, or mention an award you won, it’s simply your ego rearing it’s ugly face. Don’t do it. Don’t buy in. Don’t talk about awards you won. There’s a time and a place for it. During a job interview, on your LinkedIn Account sure, but in your social media bio? No!

Don't tell me what you invented. Tell me about who you changed

In the words of Seth Godin, “Don’t tell me what you invented. Tell me who you have changed.”

Humility is a virtue.

When you send an email asking someone to vote for you to win an award it makes you seem desperate. Awards are special, meant to celebrate something remarkable you did. If you ask others to “vote” for you via email, personally, I don’t think you deserve the award. With all the commotion about the awards out there, I thought something had to be said.

In the business community when you find out the vast majority of “awards” companies and people win, they had someone close to them apply for it, it doesn’t really seem like awards matter. Literally, an agency nominating their own client work for an award? I get a part of it, I mean, it makes them look great, but eventually unwarranted awards will ketchup to you. Results will always matter more than awards.

If you could afford to buy an award would you?

Five years ago a client asked about an ethical dilemma she was having.

“Do you think we should keep advertising in major Canadian magazine, they’re the ones who decide on Canada’s 50 Top Employers.We seem to be on the list if we advertise, but we won’t be if we pull our budget. What do we do?

If you automatically throwout the notion on advertising to win an award ask yourself, why? Sure it feels unethical, but all the major companies do it.Well at least the ones winning the awards anyway… You can choose to be a part of that world, or you can choose a different path.

How the holy hell did he get an award?

I always find it fascinating to look into the criteria for winning awards, generally someone has to apply for it. This reminds me of my 3rd year University. The Business faculty always had scholarships for “the top students”. This made no sense, because the top students were usually the kids who didn’t have to work, had school paid for, and could focus all their attention on class. Myself, on the other hand struggled to pay for school, had a terrible average and would have LOVED a scholarship. I just didn’t agree with “applying for it”.

As the story goes, my arch nemesis, the know-it-all kid, who never wanted to help out with the Business Students Society, who actually quit on us, applied for the BSS funded scholarship. Then he won. I couldn’t believe it. Why the hell would you pick the guy that was doing fine to give a scholarship to? Here I was struggling to get through classes (though I never failed one!) volunteering my ass off and the goodie two shoes just got a free ride, because he had a high average?!?

That’s when I began to mistrust “school” and any awards given away at school.

Life’s about being able to do your art, not winning awards.

Eddy introduced me to an amazing designer that he looks up to, Aaron Draplin. I’ve written about him before, You don’t need to win awards to be amazing. But I think you should watch his Ted Talk. He doesn’t care about awards, he cares about being able to do his art every single day.

What good is an award if you aren’t happy?

Aaron is a happy guy, my favourite part of his talk is when he talks about how lucky he is to just be able to do his art every day. How often we all take for granted what we do for a living? Here’s a guy, who is one of the most amazing designers of our generation and he is very open about not winning awards. I look up to people like Mr. Draplin. He could apply for awards and put that on his website and proposals, but I think his work speaks for itself.If you’re good enough you won’t need awards to make you feel better. Plus, putting syrup on shit doesn’t make it a pancake. Stop worrying about awards and start worrying about results!

pancake quote

What about BIG awards like the Nobel prize?

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis tells the story of the remarkable relationship of two brilliant Israeli Psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. Amos wasn’t a fan of awards. For every winner there had to be a handful of losers and that just wasn’t fair to Amos.

When the Nobel committee called Amos to notify him he was on a very short list to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, Amos didn’t even take the call. He was quoted later saying winning the Nobel prize wasn’t one of the things he was going to miss when he was gone. The Nobel Prize comes with a $1,000,000 cash prize. Not a small prize to be walking away from. Amos died far too early, the behavioural economics community and the world lost a brilliant mind on June 2, 1996.

This was coming for a guy that was offered a job for the rest of his life from one of the top Universities in the world. Amos, was one of the greatest thinkers of our time! On his deathbed when the President of Stanford was preparing a last lecture and celebration for Amos, he quickly called and negotiated out of the big celebration. He never wanted to credit for what he did, it just wasn’t important to him.

undoing project quote-amos

How smart was Amos Tversky? Really?

The Tversky Intelligence Test.

In 2013 in Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath, Gladwell tells a story about how highly Amos Tversky was regarded among his peers. As told to Gladwell by psychologist Adam Alter, the Tversky intelligence test was, “The faster you realized Tversky was smarter than you, the smarter you were.

Don’t take credit for what isn’t yours.

Shep Gordon never needed the credit. (I’ve written about Shep Gordon, the Supermench before). When a music manager works on an album or with an artist they are entitled to royalties for perpetuity of the sales that album makes. Shep never signed contracts with artists to guarantee royalties. He never thought he needed to, he trusted the people he worked with. This created loyalty with the artists and groups he worked with. Shep’s reputation proceeded him, after he is referred to as the Supermench. He did admit there was a fine line between smart and stupid when using contracts though. Not to claim royalties on an album like the Beatles Anthology (he worked on it) would fall into the category of the later.

Shep is still doing fine, instead of all that money he’d much rather have Mike Myers refer to him as “the nicest person he has ever met”.

Being a good teammate is better than winning an award.

From the book Give and Take, Adam Grant tells the story of George Meyer a habitual ‘giver’ that has never worried about receiving credit, even though he was involved in some major television productions in the past 30 years.

If his name – George Meyer doesn’t – sound familiar, the shows he’s worked on will; Saturday Night Live, Late Night With David Letterman and The Simpsons. Many people involved with The Simpson’s production agreed that Meyer was a pivotal part of the team, a linchpin really.

Your reputation is far more valuable than receiving credit or an award.

Seeing your name in the credits is an ego boost.

Many people in the entertainment industry thrive off the mention of their name in the credits. To be a part of a major production even as a small role, most people would demand their name appear in the credits. George Meyer was not one of those people. Meyer was a writer and producer on over 300 episodes of the Simpsons and was only mentioned Twelve times in the credits. Having his name mentioned in the credits wasn’t important to him, being an integral part of the team was. We should all strive to be a little more like George Meyer.

being a good teammate is better than winning an award

Congratulations StratLab! You won an award!

Finally if you don’t believe me that awards are something you should never focus on or put time in to, because you never know when someone just makes something up. Look to the top right hand corner of this page (sorry not on mobile). “Canada’s 50 Most Inclusive Employers” was an award I made up to celebrate the first 50 companies participating in the 4to40 initiative. See even you can make up an award and give it to whoever you choose.

Thanks to Aaron, Amos, Shep and George for setting an example for future leaders.

I look up to these four individuals for the courage it took to focus on what really mattered to them. Instead of idolizing pop, culture icons or TV stars try putting up a poster of Amos Tversky in your office. Or maybe it’s a Draplin original, to keep yourself humble at work. I love looking up to people like this, people I want to be like some day. After all, we become our hero’s in the end don’t we? Just make sure you pick the right hero’s to emulate.