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High Five!

This is my 91st blog. While I intended to wait for the 100th to write about rewards, I decided 91 was more appropriate. My grandfather is 91 and his motto is, “Every day I get up in the morning is a birthday.” So I figured, why wait?

My nephew on the first day of kindergarten.

Growing up, we’re rewarded for the simplest things. Counting to ten, riding a bike without training wheels, the first day of kindergarten. As we go through school we’re continually rewarded for good grades, perfect attendance, or making the basketball team.

Then we graduate. And for a while there may not be much to celebrate. But soon we land a job, maybe get married, have children, and start collecting more of those pats on the back. While these are well-deserved accomplishments, as we get older, they can be few and far between. So do we stop needing them?

Heck no.

While we don’t need congratulations for every achievement, it’s important to recognize even the simplest ones. Not for boasting, but for motivation. Cleaned out the pantry? Go for a bike ride! Organized your desk? Chai latte for you! Finished a project for work? Lunch for everyone! Whatever the triumph, it’s okay to recognize it. You earned it. Facebook has capitalized on these “rewards.” People post “achievements” for their “friends” to “like” and comment on. Maybe our addiction to Facebook is less about sharing than it is about getting the feedback we’re lacking.

But be careful you don’t become addicted to the responses. According to a recent Newsweek article, brain scans of Internet addicts now resemble those of cocaine addicts, as constant use triggers a pleasurable response in the brain. OMG!

In baseball, almost every play, whether it results in a run or not, receives a high five. This simple gesture of acknowledgment tells the recipient, “Hey, good work out there!” And while baseball is just a game, for the players it’s their job. How many high fives do us normal folk get in our jobs? “Lenny, great work on the mailing. High five!” or “Lucille, way to add up those expense reports. High five!”

When I was the Chief of Staff in the President’s office at Hunter College, I doled out high fives pretty often. As a former athlete, I know how important they can be to your self-esteem, plus they encourage people to work harder.

Today, I work a lot from home and there aren’t many people around to give me high fives. So I printed out a picture of a High Five and taped it to my wall. Now each time I feel worthy (or maybe just in need) of a High Five, there’s one waiting.

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