Effort or Achievement: Which Do You Value the Most?

by Joe Plemon on January 14, 2011

The coloring book page was taped prominently on my office wall for several years. It was not necessarily artistic; a yellow faced boy, wearing blue shirt, shorts and cap throwing a purple ball to a brown and black dog. The colorings consisted of heavy scratches by blunt crayons, with little consideration of where the lines were. The left edge of the page, having been torn from the book, was ragged.

When visitors would ask, “Why is THAT there?”, I would simply point to the green lettered inscription scrawled at the bottom of the picture: TO PAPA LOVE DYLLAN

Dyllan, by the way, is my granddaughter.

I was reminded of that coloring book page recently while reading Heb 11: 4 “It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed His approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

Why was Abel’s offering more pleasing that Cain’s offering?

Whereas theologians will point out that Abel’s animal (blood) sacrifice was a better gift than Cain’s vegetable gifts, I prefer to think that God’s approval is based more on the attitude of the giver than the gift itself. Think about it: God is God. He needs our gifts about as much as Steve Jobs needs a PC. God looks past the gift to our attitudes, motives and hearts. We would do well to do the same.

Lesson for parents

Do you applaud your children’s efforts or withhold approval until they achieve a set standard? When our children were younger, we gave rewards for good grades, but we also gave rewards for improvement. We understood that our children were different; getting A’s was easy for some and difficult for others, so we showed appreciation for effort. Ask yourself: “What am I teaching my children when I only brag on them when they hit home runs or make straight A’s? That my love for them is conditional on their accomplishments? Hmmm.”

Lesson for employers

Do you recognize effort? I realize that individual and corporate goals must be achieved in order for businesses to succeed, but a pat on the back for those who are putting forth the effort may be the impetus needed to help them reach and exceed those goals.

Lesson for us all

Accomplishments are important. Excellence should always be pursued. But the journey toward accomplishment and excellence is where we live. Along life’s pathway, we can make this world a better place for our fellow travelers by looking past the veneer of accomplishments and recognizing the substance of attitudes, effort and motives. In a small way, we would be growing closer to the character of God.

Why not start with a coloring book page taped to your wall? God would approve.

Readers:  Which do you value more highly: effort or achievement?  How about your employers, parents and friends?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Everyday Tips January 14, 2011 at 8:37 am

I think effort is way underrated these days. Everyone wants instant results in many facets of life. At work, they just want the project done on time, whether you worked 40 hours a week or 60. Not many pats on the back for a good effort (at least that I have seen). However, as a coworker, I totally appreciate when someone working with me is putting in a great effort. I know they are as committed as I am and that I can count on them if something goes awry. However, I am not in a position to offer reward either.

In personal lives, people quite often just focus on what they want the end result to be and want the steps in between to be quick and easy. I think that is why so many people don’t lose weight. They don’t celebrate the 3 pounds here and there. They give up when they don’t see instant, dramatic weight loss and go back to bad habits.

I know for myself, I have to celebrate the small victories along the way or I lose my motivation. Sometimes, you just have to provide the accolades for accomplishment to yourself because externally, it may not happen. (But it should.)

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joeplemon January 14, 2011 at 10:35 am

@Everyday,
I hadn’t considered that our microwave, instant gratification society may have created a culture of people who only look for results without even thinking about the effort it took to get those results. I think you are on to something.

I also appreciate your observation that we need to celebrate those small victories along the way, even if we have to provide the accolades ourselves. Maybe doing so will motivate us to look outside our own worlds and encourage others.

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Dave@50plusfinance January 14, 2011 at 11:37 am

If someone puts out effort 9 times and succeeds on the tenth time, are they worse than someone who gets it on the fifth try. Technically they both succeeded only one took longer. Is one better than the other? To some the one that got it quicker is better. Judging if someone is better than another at something is the measurement of success. It’s an outward sign. Maybe we should honor the tenacity of the one that didn’t give up.

The one that took longer may not be as accomplished as the one that succeeded quicker. We all are on our own path. We are at different places on our path. To judge someones results because of that is wrong.

Abel’s offering was judged by God for his heart. Yet Cain’s offering was judged not as good. Maybe Cain was not down the path as far as Abel was.

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joeplemon January 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Dave,
I think you made my point better than I did. I agree that we should honor the tenacity of those who don’t give up. It could be that, although these didn’t accomplish a task as quickly, they demonstrate other qualities (such as diligence, patience, integrity, tenacity, dependability, great work ethic) which could inspire others much more than the extremely gifted person who is able to complete the same task in half the time. Who could watch “Rudy” without being inspired?

I think it is good to recognize such qualities instead of automatically championing the “winner”.

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krantcents January 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Effort should be encouraged and achievements celebrated. I always encourage my children do their best. For example, can you look in the mirror and say you did your best today? If the answer is yes, great! If not, increase your effort. Not everyone will achieve, but everyone can make their best effort.

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Miss T @ Prairie EcoThrifter January 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I value effort. If someone is wiling to try their best, then they will eventually succeed. We all need to grow and develop no matter our age and we do this by putting forth the effort needed. People respect those who try.

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joeplemon January 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm

@krantcents,
Agreed! Sometimes effort is more difficult to tabulate than achievements, but recognizing that effort (with kids or even looking in the mirror) is a great way to encourage others and challenge ourselves.

@Miss T,
I agree that people SHOULD respect those who try, but, according to other comments, that respect is too often missing. Do you observe others (parents, employers, etc) showing respect for those who are trying?

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Samantha Dermot January 15, 2011 at 2:59 am

As for me, I value the effort more than any achievement. Not all achievers exerted lots of effort, same as not all losers exerted great effort just to achieve something. So you can’t just judge anybody because of his/her achievement in life. No matter how hardworking a person is, he/she can’t control the result of success if it’s not for him/her.

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Len Penzo January 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Great post, Joe. I always tell my kids that all I can ask for is that they give 100 percent all the time; the results are immaterial.

I realize everybody doesn’t think that way. When I was a Little League baseball coach I used to preach the same thing to all my players, and some parents were actually not too happy with me. For them it was all about the final score.

In the business world, I understand that our performance evaluations ultimately depends on us meeting business goals and objectives. After all, a business that continually fails to meet those goals may be a business in jeopardy. Still, I appreciate it when my boss recognizes a failed business goal may have been due to circumstances beyond my control, as opposed to any lack of effort on my part.

All the best,

Len
Len Penzo dot Com

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joeplemon January 15, 2011 at 2:28 pm

@Samantha,
Well said. Because some achievers and most losers don’t put forth much effort, and because effort doesn’t always ultimately end with success, one measure of success (in my opinion) is how much effort one puts forth. I know this: I am more inspired by those who do their best than I am by those who coast.

@Len,
I have been there with the coaching and I was always amazed at how some parents regarded anything short of winning as total failure. In my mind, they are warping their children’s self esteem by planting, “I am only acceptable/loved when I come out on top” in their minds. Are these children going to be the adults who will sacrifice integrity, family and friendships to advance up the corporate ladder? Hmmm.

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Invest It Wisely January 16, 2011 at 1:37 am

I think you’d find Amy Chau’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” quite disconcerting, yet probably quite interesting!

I agree that it’s all about the attitude, but results do count, too. The real world rewards both effort AND results, and it’s important that kids know that. Insulating them might hurt them down the road. It’s best if they can put the effort into an avenue that they love and that others will appreciate as well. That is a win-win.

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My Personal Finance Journey January 16, 2011 at 9:01 pm

I suppose that personally, I was always brought up to value effort. Achievement, I feel is driven by factors that can be outside of your control.

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