Backwards inc3ntiv3s

Santiago Rivera
4 min readSep 22, 2020

Incentives. What type of incentives are correct for us? What type of pressure are you putting to yourself? Learning what type of incentives you put on is really another layer of knowledge you can gain about yourself.

I learned about leading myself under the wrong incentives in 7th grade in the school’s soccer team. The team was about to begin its route to classifying to one of the biggest tournaments in the country. Being part of the school’s soccer team was for me, the biggest accomplishment I could make in all my school years, it was the idea of success for me. Like in central america, or at least in Latin America, the culture of soccer is so deep in its roots that it influences all of the members of a community for good and for bad. As I recently moved into a new school, seeing myself in the team meant I was going to be finally respected or admired, I liked the idea so much that I was determined to get into the team.

Before the season began, my motivation to be in the team was the want for recognition, it wasn’t because of my passion for the game…big mistake. The preparation for the the was grueling, even for teenagers that as matter of fact were in pretty good shape already.

Eventually when I got in, things were a little bit different, instead of feeling all of this thrill and excitement, I felt anxious. I felt like every move I made, I was being graded to determine if I was able to be enough for the team. As we entered the tournament, the team was really top-notch, so it was expected that we did well, and we did. As we entered the tournament we were undefeated, and as we moved on, we kept winning and winning, and the pressure began to increase greatly for me. It was so stressful to go into a game knowing that I was in the first team, that sometimes internally I felt glad that I was benched because I was so scared that when I did enter I would embarrass myself.

Suddenly I found myself in the finals, in the most important game of the biggest tournament in terms of schools. The game was tied, the environment was getting really heated, parents and students from all over schools were there, it was even being streamed. The tension was really palpable, it was where it all summed up. I was benched in that final, I was a bit angry, but deep, deep inside of me I was relieved, but did not want to show it. Then suddenly as the game was going into penalties the coach said: ¨Santi, start warming up,¨

That sentence made every cell in my body turn upside down, and so the penalties started and I was chosen to take one. Each team took their respective penalties, until one was left for each team, one for my team and one for the other. It was my turn, and as I kicked it with the most precision and strength I had at that moment, and then….. saved by the goalkeeper. We lost the tournament.

I was devastated, it was really the worst that had happened in all life up until then. Every team mate tried to console me, saying that it wasn’t my fault, that I aimed and the goalkeeper just happened to guessed it. I thanked them but deep inside of there was a scar that wouldn’t be healed anytime soon.

As I look back at it, a bit more healed from that event. I thought why was that painful for me? Sure we lost the tournament, that heart breaking for any team but then I understood. It wasn’t because my reputation as player got ruined, it was because the mask that I built for myself that I was so proud of, was destroyed. Since the beginning I wanted the image of success, I felt like that was the only way for me to be really accepted there, that is why when I failed, part of as a person and value I put to myself was injured.

Since then, I understood that going after something superficial will only get you hurt, from the beginning my incentives were erroneous. I try to look at it this way, when you work towards achieving your passion, you can take failure as an inevitable step, but when you work towards proving yourself to others, failure damages you, because it doesn’t affect only your skill, but also the way you think about your self worth. Setting up yourself with the wrong incentives is really setting yourself for a wrongful situation.

Understanding what you want, what your incentives are is understanding how will you probably react in moments were you feel like you failed. And although you can’t really choose your difficulties you face, you can choose what your reactions can be.