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A Culture of Consolation Prizes

They were stuck. Shipwrecked with nothing but ice for hundreds of miles in every direction.

Nearing the South Pole, the weather was bitterly cold and caused any exposed flesh to freeze instantly.

What to do?

This was not the first time the intrepid leader of this expedition had been in a similarly perilous situation. Once before, he had been stuck with no means of escape.

Now, as they did then, they disembarked from the ship onto the ice. This was the only means to slightly improve their situation as they were running low on fuel and could not afford to heat the ship.

To retain heat, they unloaded the emergency boats from the ship and huddled underneath them as night fell.

Enduring the bitter cold of an Antarctic night, they then awoke and left their protection to gather more provisions off of the ship.

But where was it? The ship had completely disappeared.

Crushed by the movements of the ice, the ship was destroyed.

This was the predicament of Sir Ernest Shackleton

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton was an adventurer. Born in 1874, he was born to be a seaman. He joined the merchant marines in 1890 and the Royal Navy Reserve in 1901.

Shackleton is most famous for his three endeavors (1903, 1907, & 1914) to reach the South Pole with the intent to claim the Pole for Britain. During the close of the age of exploration the South Pole was thought of as the final frontier, and Shackleton was determined to reach it.

The intrepid explorers eventually managed to escape after 5 months by sailing one of their remaining row boats 800 miles across the open ocean to a port where they were able to procure a ship to pick up the remaining crew who was still stranded.

Consolation prizes teach us not to try

If there is no guaranteed benefit, why try? Why assume risk and start a business? Why hone a skill until it is a valuable asset?

Shackleton's adventures and misadventures had no guaranteed result. In fact, the farthest they made it by the end of all three expeditions was within 97 miles of the Pole.

Today, we have a guaranteed-success mentality. If I cannot reasonably assume that I will be able to achieve that goal or pass that test, then I don't do it.

At certain times, being cautious can be a benefit. However, when that attitude permeates our soul too deeply we become lazy and apathetic.

Struggle, Failure, and Triumph are essential to life

How boring is a life with no risk? You never play sports for fear of an injury, never make important financial investments that may really help you later on, and never take risks on personal relationships.

Without the capacity to lose and learn we become entangled in a devastating everlasting circle of nothingness.

It is impossible to have a fulfilled life without seeking out the right risks.

Consolation prizes have created a disgruntled generation

Do you wonder why we see mobs of people burning down cities, looting stores, and fighting with Police?

Perhaps a piece of the puzzle is that they have been taught that the system is against them, as such it makes sense for them to try and destroy it.

If the world in which you reside only offers consolation prizes, like welfare programs, socialized healthcare, and abortion programs, then there is no reason for you to try to better yourself and lift yourself from the mire.

Consolation prizes teach us to rely on handouts and on other people fixing our problems.

There is a reason why Shackleton's story is still told

Great men leave legacies. In order to leave a legacy you must hold your convictions and work towards achieving them.

If we condition ourselves and our progeny to focus on the goal and not the process, to only search out solutions to their problems that take the least amount of effort, and to blame others when failure inevitably occurs, we will stifle the Shackleton's in our midst.

Rather, we should encourage conviction and responsibility. Make a goal, and learn to enjoy the grind of achieving it. We live in a meritocracy, do hard things and earn that merit.

While Shackleton's expeditions never made it to the South Pole before his death in 1922, his legacy of determined grit and virality still persist.

Don't become addicted to consolation prizes. Take responsibility for yourself rather than relying on others.

By doing so you will discover a significantly more fulfilling and interesting life, even if you have to fail every once in a while.

Written by Donnie Emmack

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