There is a familiar story that happens to young people who excel in competitive environments like football, music, theater and academics.
Star quarterbacks, concert masters, lead actresses and valedictorians head off to college and discover that there are a lot of other people their age who were also top in their school.
The reaction to this new reality varies. Some young people crumble as their image of themselves as the best is immediately refuted by the larger world. They are unable to adapt and see themselves beyond their relative position in their group.
Like football players who took repeated blows to the head, these young artists and athletes, become victims of head injuries. Their ego was unprepared for the blows that adult life continually dishes out.
Other former stars are able to make the transition and maintain their sense of self even if they are not the best anymore. They are able to put their success into perspective. Their ego rolls with the punches.
Competition is a powerful motivator. Teachers, coaches and parents use it liberally to push kids to do better. But those in charge have a responsibility to develop more than their student’s talent.
In sports, good coaches are able to give their players perspective and skills that go beyond winning a game. They reinforce the values of camaraderie, hard work, team spirit and relationships.
In music, good teachers are able to give their students a broad variety of skills that enable them to connect with other musicians and discover a purpose in music that extends beyond performing, competing and measuring how we are seen by others.