The real significance of reward and recognition


Success is an albatross. It is, at once, a harbinger of good times if handled with care, and a cue to descent, if shot down with conceit.

Recognition is a double-edged sword. It can cut the hands that wield it if handled without expertise.

It takes a long time to get to the victory stand, and when one gets there, there is an inevitability about the trickeries it is capable of playing on our psyche—a devious streak that can lead to affectedness. The pride and sense of accomplishment one feels is delirious, it gives our self-esteem an instant stimulus and in flashes, it can even make us feel invincible. To use a hackneyed adage, “nothing succeeds like success,” and it provides a sound reason for us to pat ourselves and marvel at our growth trajectory in moments of self-fulfilment.

None of the above can be denied and shouldn’t be, for we have earned it, yet in the moment of a recent accolade that came my way, I wondered what rewards and recognitions should mean to us in the larger scheme of things.

I acknowledged that the honour I have received would, in all probability, catapult my reputation and change the course of my life. I humbly accepted the bouquets that flocked around me and basked in it for a few fleeting hours. And then I sat down to deliberate on the most innocuous sounding question – “what next?” Once the cheers die down, once the crowds return home, once the euphoric emotions settle, what significance will this accomplishment have on me, and more importantly, what positive impact will it have on other people’s lives?

In a trice, the award that created ripples among my social media connections and inner circles ceased to be a badge of honour fastened to my name as a ceremonial decoration. My victory no longer carried personal subtexts; it now assumed more solemn aspects.

Success has had a long tradition of being a private enterprise, catering favourable outcomes to the one who claims it by dint of their endeavours. It furthers the winners’ prospects and puts them on a growth orbit. We watch them with eyes full of admiration, at times tinged with envy, and laud their exploits, with generous compliments and praise. And the winners move on, riding the crest of their good times with little to do with the crowd in the long term, except in cases of national victories where patriotism and allegiance makes every follower collectively share the honour, and savour the victory vicariously.

In a moment of rare insight, I realised my victory should carry a lot more influence on others than it has on me. To announce my triumphs with bells and whistles and to take home the laurels as my exclusive possession is tantamount to selfishness. If I have won, my winning should extend its arms to embrace others. It should encompass the joys and experiences of people and make them feel benefited in one way or the other.

Every step I take towards the podium should leave footprints that others can follow and reach their dream destination. My success cannot remain my exclusive preserve; from it I must draw resources that others can use in the advancement of their life plans. There has to be an upshot from my gains that will make the world a better place in any possible way.

As I wove yarns of deep reflection in my consciousness, the concept of individual wins began to take a universal spin, with a domino effect taking place across multiple domains. I felt obliged to make every action and every accolade I added to my portfolio worth its weight in gold for the impact they will have on humanity. It made me want to reinforce my self-belief, pledge to strive harder and bring progressive changes even if in minuscules, and make my successes look grander than it would be if I kept it locked in my personal victory vault.

Rewards and recognitions are a big deal indeed, not only because they enhance our personal image and make a statement of our professional worth, but because they provide an impetus to us to stretch our limits and perform better, again not just for our individual profit, but for the greater good too. Every win should be shared generously with an unfailing promise. “I will use this as a spring board to bring more value, joy and peace to people’s lives with my work and wherewithal.”

It is when I see my victories in this light that every congratulatory message and compliment that I receive becomes more relevant. It is when I detach myself from my success as a patented possession and scatter it all over the plains that a field of flowers will grow.

My successes, in truth, belong to the world.

(Asha Iyer Kumar is a Dubai-based author and an award-winning children’s writing coach.)