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Lessons from the Contest

by Robin Tuck
April 1997

During 1996, the Utah County Birders sponsored the Centennial Birding Contest, which was to see 200 bird species in Utah with at least 150 of them being in Utah County. Thirty-one birders completed the contest, but many more participated and improved their skills.

Did the Centennial Birding contest work for you? Each of you had your own reason for participating or not participating. I was surprised by the fervor some of you exhibited in searching for and finding the next species. What really amazed me was that this fervor began early and continued even after many of you had seen the required number of species.

There are contests all around us. The mail delivers a continued stream of contests promising instant wealth. But these contests do not seem to excite us like the birding contest did. If we understand why this contest worked or did not work for us, we can understand what we need to do to motivate ourselves to achieve other goals. I believe the following ideas made it work.

I am reminded about an experience I had while seeking an advanced degree some years ago. "Les" and I were both registered for a 3 year degree program and we drove together to the classes. The steps were laid out and both Les and I knew exactly what was required; a lot of dedicated, hard work. A year and a half into the program, Les became despondent and wanted to quit. I encouraged him, buoying him up. My encouragement helped, and Les continued the program. Later that year, when I wanted to quit, Les supported me. We both went on to complete the program and obtained the degrees we sought. This experience shares all the steps outlined above.

Examine your goals and see if you can apply these steps to help you obtain them.