It’s true of many New Zealanders (and English people) that cutting ‘tall poppies’ off at the knees is good sport. Is it because the people who do this don’t see themselves as high achievers so they need to spoil it for those who are? Or are they jealous because they’d like some of the limelight themselves? Or are there other reasons?
Whatever the reason, it’s a ‘sport’ that’s destined to limit our best and brightest and to dent their self-esteem.
When we ‘knock’ others, we have no concept at all of how fragile their self-esteem is. We imagine that, because they’ve achieved at something, they must be confident, self-assured, perhaps even a little arrogant. I heard a radio interview recently where a sportsman was saying how hard it was to be the top seed after a string of wins. It became harder and harder to sustain that top position. Being at the top of your game all the time can be a lonely place. The pressure is enormous. The slightest mistake might mean a loss and there are always plenty of people supporting the underdog. (Roger Federer might be an exception to this).
When one of our New Zealand national teams loses, we’re very quick to criticise. We expect them to be at their best and infallible all of the time. We expect them to win. When a member of the team performs poorly, there are no excuses. And, of course, the coach is in for trouble too. After all, they’re getting paid aren’t they? It’s their job to win!
It doesn’t seem to be fashionable to celebrate those who have big dreams and great attitudes. Some people support others really well and they’re to be commended. We need so many more who do. What difference might it make if we supported and encouraged others, particularly our young people, when they show extraordinary attitudes and exhibit a strong desire to make a difference?
I interviewed one such young person recently for a Talent article. From uncertain and sometimes worrying beginnings, he was lucky enough to find mentors who supported him just when he needed them. He decided to take control of his attitude. What he’s achieving now is a testament to what one tall poppy can do when nurtured instead of being cut off at the knees.