Merit and measuring it in hockey and life

By Dave Turner

My son recently started playing hockey, and has 15 new teammates who have all become fast friends. This will he first of many experiences in a team environment, where personal accountability, hard work, and fair play all begin to mean something. I always laugh when a competitive event has concluded, and an observer or player surmises that one team “should have” won. If their reference was to the losing team, then on what facts are these comments based? Was the officiating in one teams favour? Did a player cheat and his actions go unnoticed? Or was it simply because based on past games or overall standings that the team coming in with the best probability of winning should always win?

While perhaps cliché, the underdog always falls back on the saying ‘that’s why we play the game’. If contests were simply based on statistics, then probability-based outcomes would govern success and failures. Not when you introduce the human element. On game day, the best prepared team with the best trained and most talented athletes should win – yet teams need to work together. They need to make quick decisive adjustments based on ever changing conditions and circumstances. Emotions and other variables are tough to predict, and often these variables change outcomes as much as a great goal.

No one deserves anything in life. Sure we want to be treated well by others, and have all the basic needs in life provided for, but no one deserves to succeed, be rich or be elected. Life should be based on merit. A meritocracy where people get rewarded based on meeting or exceeding mutually agreed upon expectations. We want to live in a world where advancement is based on ability and achievement set against a common set of evaluation criteria. The problem with our modern measurement of success, which typically comes back to monetary reward and public celebration, is that winners and losers set against these metrics always exaggerate the reasons for ‘success’ which are based on an unfair set of rules. The ‘winners’ are usually overlooking the role luck and opportunity played, while the ‘losers’ will always claim that their outcome was a foregone conclusion given the odds stacked against them.

Success based on merit seems so simple, but in today’s competitive world, players will use what ever leverage they can to increase their probabilities of success. A pure merit based world ceases to exist as soon as variables are introduced – variables like gender, religion, race, family, and income. We can only strive to reduce the influence of these variables, and to live in a society where talent, hard work and achievement are rewarded and recognized without skepticism

Dave Turner, UCC ’87 and a UCC Parent, is Vice President of HUB International HKMB.

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