Winning means something. It doesn't matter how big or small, a victory leaves a temporary imprint. Whether it's a confidence boost, bragging rights, or a feeling of accomplishment, winning does something to us. However, after a brief rush of dopamine flows through our body and fizzles, all we are left with is a story—at least until a Trophy came along to commemorate the award won.
The picture above was me in 2010. I was attending a young entrepreneurs conference and was just awarded Entrepreneur of the Year at just 21. Standing in front of 500 young professionals, I spoke about the success and how proud I was to win this prestigious award accompanied by what I thought was a trophy. After arriving back at my seat, I gazed upon my plaque—if you could even call it one. I held in my hand a piece of paper, shoved into a dollar store frame with chipped corners and a cardboard back.
To this day, standing on stage and speaking to my peers was the proudest I've ever been; however, I couldn't tell you what landfill the award is currently residing.
The piece of paper covered in glass sat inside my desk drawer for two months before I decided to throw it out. I was embarrassed to hang it up in my office, surrounded by expensive books, nice sculptures, and pictures of loved ones resting in high-end picture frames. I thought about getting something more expensive to place the award in but when I took the paper out, it wasn't even made of cardstock.
My kindergarten teacher made nicer awards for coloring inside the lines.
I couldn't believe I went to a massive conference, after beating out 2,000 other candidates only to receive something so insignificant. Of course I didn't do it for an award, trophy, or even bragging rights. I had no idea I would be receiving one until 24 hours prior to arriving. However, it would be nice to have a souvenir reminding me of the success I achieved. They had the right idea, just the wrong execution.
The thing is, I love awards and I love recognition for achieving something great. I even have two trophies in the background of my fantasy football shows for winning a couple of surfing contests over 15 years ago. Am I more proud of winning those than I am for winning Entrepreneur of the Year? Hell no. However, an engraved ukulele and an etched marble plaque are both worth showing off.
Every time I see those trophies, it makes me proud of what I accomplished. I have to think people admire them—regardless of whether they actually do or not.
It doesn't matter if it's fantasy football, surfing, or a business accomplishment: Reward those who work hard and do great things. As dumb as it may sound, a plaque or a trophy does more for some people receiving an award than a "good job" or even a small bonus. It allows the person to revisit the moment and relive the dopamine rush.
If you're looking to award someone, do so with a trophy; hell, do so with a Title Belt. There are people out there who would love a Championship Ring to show off. I know there are people who still have their class rings sitting on their desks. Get those champions something that will make them laugh and feel good every time they look at it. Get them something they would be proud to display for everyone to see. Allow them to relive the moment for years to come.