It’s An Honor Just To Be Nominated?

Last night was the Academy Awards (a.k.a. the Oscars). All of Hollywood put on their best dresses and tuxedos and sat through hours of questionable jokes in order to honor the Academy’s favorites films and actors from the previous year.

For the year’s winners it is a night of elation but for the nominees before the event, and the people who don’t take home an award that night, the common refrain is “it’s an honor to be nominated.” At a certain point, the viewer may start to question the veracity of this statement. Is it actually better to have your name on the ballot and the camera tuned on your face as another person’s name is called? Or is it better to have not gotten your hopes up in the first place?

In other workplaces, the easy analogy would be a promotion or a spot to lead a particular project. Is it better to be considered and rejected or not to be considered at all?

The biggest downside to not being chosen, particularly in a public process, is that the world gets to see your vulnerability. Everybody knows that this was something you wanted and everybody knows that you did not get that thing. They may, particularly in the case of the Oscars, be scrutinizing your reaction to see whether you show any weakness.

This is not fun. There are probably many people who would rather sit out the whole process than experience public rejection. However, there are many good things that can come out of “just being nominated”.

First, the fact that you were “nominated” or included on a short list means that at least some people in your field or organization thought that you deserved the award or promotion. You are of the caliber of the person who ended up being successful. Whether you missed your goal by millimeters or miles, being considered is in itself an honor.

Second, often second (or third or fourth) place is a way station on the way to first place. You will develop a better idea of what it takes to take that elusive prize and, next time, can work just that little bit harder or smarter to be on top next time.

Third, and most importantly, while it sounds trite, the learning experience of not getting what you want will make you far more prepared to be successful in the future. Disappointment is a huge learning experience. You learn how to adjust expectations, take things one step at a time, and often gain a greater sense of yourself and your priorities.

So this morning, instead of feeling bad for the Sally Fields and the Bradley Coopers of the world this morning, know that they are one step closer to achieving whatever their professional goals are for the future.


  1. Dear Dr. Leiter:

    Here in Mexico, be nominated is the main achievement for our best representants in all fields (sports, culture, cience). Unfortunatelly, it leads to a regular performance, because the main goal is just be nominated. It’s imperative for us to be winners, not only in benefit of our national selfsteem, but to make things different

    1. Heriberto

      You make an excellent point about the importance of awards & nominations to inspire greater performance. When a system settles for mediocrity, individuals lose one motivation to strive for greatness.


Leave a Reply