A visible example of this is in professional sports, namely NHL hockey. One of the iconic standards of excellence is to score 50 goals in a season. For decades, this was an exceptional accomplishment which ranked with baseball's 60 home run tally or .400 batting average as an infrequent personal milestone. Normally the achievement of a 50 goal season would bring a formal recognition to the player with either an NHL Award (i.e. Hart for MVP, Byng for Sportsmanship, etc.) or selection to the NHL First All-Star Team or Second All-Star Team.
The combination of NHL expansion and more skilled offensive talents in the game resulted in such an expansion of goal-scoring productivity that the 50 goal season became a commonplace event and an annual expectation. The following list of players indicates those achievers who scored 50 or more goals in a season (one as high as 70 goals), but never received individual recognition with an NHL Award or selection to the NHL First or Second All-Star Teams in their career. This list includes players (along with the hockey seasons where they scored at least 50 goals) who were eventually selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, but because they played concurrently with some of the greatest players ever, they were overlooked for individual recognition during their playing years.
- Rick MacLeish: 72-73
- Danny Grant: 74-75
- Pierre Larouche: 75-76, 79-80
- Jean Pronovost: 75-76
- Guy Chouinard: 78-79
- Blaine Stoughton: 79-80
- Wayne Babych: 80-81
- Jacques Richard: 80-81
- Dennis Maruk: 80-81, 81-82 (included a 60 goal season)
- Dino Ciccarelli: 81-82, 86-87
- Rick Vaive: 81-82, 82-83, 83-84
- Michel Goulet: 82-83, 83-84, 84-85, 85-86
- Al Secord: 82-83 (also one of 3 players with 30 goals and 300 penalty minutes in the same season)
- Glenn Anderson: 83-84, 85-86
- Mike Bullard: 83-84
- Craig Simpson: 87-88
- Jimmy Carson: 87-88
- Stephane Richer: 87-88, 89-90
- Bernie Nicholls: 88-89 (70 goal season)
- Brian Bellows: 89-90
- Gary Leeman: 89-90
- Jeremy Roenick: 91-92, 92-93
- Dave Andreychuk: 93-94
- Ray Sheppard: 93-94
- Peter Bondra: 95-96, 97-98
At a personal level, aspiring to excellence solely for the recognition and rewards is an exercise in vanity, from which you will inherit the wind. For every celebrated NHL hockey star like Wayne Gretzky or Doug Gilmour, there is a player who was accomplished in their own right, but is better known as the answer to a trivia question, "Who came over in the trade?" (Jimmy Carson was part of the LA-Edmonton trade that transferred Gretzky from Edmonton Oilers to LA Kings, while Gary Leeman was part of the Calgary-Toronto trade that shifted Doug Gilmour from the Calgary Flames to the Toronto Maple Leafs).
A fan of NHL hockey will read this and appreciate the collection of scorers, while I hope others will note that in their own lives, greatness has to come from within. So what lesson or message can be derived? Basically, being excellent in your field of endeavor is often not enough to be tagged with recognition or realize great financial rewards. For example 2012 has brought turmoil to the mobility industry, where innovative and previously dominant organizations like Nokia and Research In Motion (RIM) are now rapidly restructuring their businesses in order to compete and survive against the latest Android and Apple offerings. Sometimes being great is not good enough.
When recognitions and accolades come, they are always appreciated, but we stand on the shoulders of giants who have made great accomplishments, humbling our own in comparison. Motivation should should intrinsic and emanate from personal convictions and principles in order to be truly fulfilling. Success does not come from an award, a medal, nor a certificate on the wall. It comes from the realization of goals (50 goals for an NHL player) which all have their part in reaching the ideals. Success is not an entitlement, it is the outcome of achieving your predetermined goals and fulfilling them in an honorable manner.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.