Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Great Wall outside of Beijing. I was with a large group and we all climbed the first segment of the wall up to a lookout point, about 400 meters up. The steps were very narrow and steep, so most people, including me, turned around after that segment. There were a few ambitious people in the group who decided to keep going and trekked an impressive distance. Apparently, there was a lookout point further up that was breathtaking.
The group I descended with decided we needed something to commemorate the visit. My friend Troy came across a plastic medal in one of the souvenir stands. He wore it proudly and posed for a picture as we laughed about how superficial the award was. He said he was going to take it home proudly and tell everyone about the great feat he accomplished in China, leaving out the small detail about only climbing 400 meters.
Troy didn’t really care about reaching the summit, but if he had, the medal would have been exactly what it was: a plastic, meaningless metric used to approximate success while not actually representing success.