Over the past few weeks, I have had varied involvement in two selection boards considering a large number of applicants desiring to serve in our Navy. In the process, our prime directive has become “The Whole-Person Concept.” That model is intended to overtly encourage all of us to acknowledge applicants who may not have achieved high scores in standardized tests, attended prominent universities or enjoyed a stellar grade point average because they were busy living life beyond the classroom. I think we all can agree that many experiences we value are lived beyond academia.

As a devoted father, I am a bit concerned with our current trajectory and feel as though my personal situation, largely based on deliberate choice, is stacking the cards against my son. Because my wife and I chose to wait until we were married to start a family, we choose to take our commitment to family seriously, and we work hard to deliberately nurture our son, we may very well have provided him the greatest obstacle of all, an opportunity to develop at his own pace relatively free of unnecessary distraction. With good reason, “The Whole-Person Concept” has always been there, but by making it the prime consideration, children like my son will likely be placed in the category of “privileged” and his accomplishments through young adulthood will be measured by a different standard. Rather than acknowledge those who have accomplished much by a singular standard and then acknowledge the subjective level of adversity they might have had to overcome in the process to meet/exceed that standard, we choose to knock perceived “privileged” people down a notch just because we believe they have not had to work as hard as others to enjoy their high level of accomplishment.

Though recent examples at work bring this to the forefront of my mind, unnecessary qualifiers surround us and undermine accomplishments…

  • Billy is a good football player, but it’s only because he is 6’6″ and his Dad played in the NFL
  • Sally is really good in biology, but that’s because her Mom is a Doctor
  • Mr. Johnson runs a very successful business, but he inherited the company from his Dad and didn’t build it himself

We ought not to diminish Billly’s, Sally’s, or Mr. Johnson’s accomplishments because we believe they had a running start or were “privileged” with a running start.

Which two would you choose to join your workcenter (please excuse the omission of other important variables)?

  • Jimmy has a 2.2 GPA from “Online University,” but he’s a single dad and has overcome much adversity
  • Suzy came from a broken home, cared for her younger siblings, held down a job yet achieved academic greatness and is a wonderful communicator
  • Johnny graduated from an Ivy League University with honors and grew up “privileged” from both a parental and economic perspective

Suzy is an easy choice and that makes sense. She is a strong candidate and has demonstrated a great deal of grit over the years. But what about Jimmy and Johnny? As the “The Whole-Person Concept” continues to trump the “Best and Fully Qualified”, Jimmy will continue to beat out Johnny every time. I submit the two models are not mutually exclusive, but instead “The Whole-Person Concept” is an input to deciding who is “Best and Fully Qualified.” When used properly, a Suzy will always rise to the top and a Jimmy¬†will be valued over “a Johnny when appropriate (but we are beginning to make it the default response). In essence, the spirit of the concept is being undermined in its execution.

I ask that we all continue to stack the cards against our children in the minds of those who have hijacked “The Whole-Person Concept.” We must give our children the advantage of what was once considered our parental responsibility, but is now considered by some creating a “privileged” environment. Likewise, we need to continue to do our part to help others achieve their full potential, regardless of the perceived advantages they enjoyed in adolescence. We must celebrate high standards without unnecessary qualifiers.

  • How do you define “Best and Fully Qualified?”
  • How do you define “privileged?”
  • Are you ensuring “The Whole Person Concept” is informing who joins your team?