questionshave you heard the "you're not special…


I saw parts of it and an interview with the guy who gave it. He makes some good points. If everyone gets an award, what does it really mean? And he also talked about how we get so afraid of failing. Failing helps us learn and to see things in a new light, but our society strives so much for success without failure, which isn't always advantageous.

In a study by Madsen and Desai (2010), they found that organizations not only learned more from failure than success, but that they also retained this knowledge for longer periods of time.

Madsen, P. M. & Desai, V. (2010). Failing to learn? The effects of failure and success on organizational learning in the global orbital launch vehicle industry. Academy of Management Journal, 53 (3), 451-476.


I have, and personally I liked it. ‎"Once everyone is Super, no one will be" (Syndrome, from The Incredibles). I can't imagine the reactions of the people sitting there at the graduation. My favorite quote: "Climb (the mountain) so you can see the world, not so the world can see you."


I haven't seen this one but the principle at my brothers high school graduation gave a similair speech, 4 years ago. She said that "all through school we lied to you, you aren't all special and some of you will fail." I thought it was hilarious because it's true.


I think about that every time I see the "My child was an honor student at....." stickers. I see them so often now that it has lost all meaning (if there was any in the beginning).


It was an impressive speech. Would have liked to have him for a teacher. And he handled what's becoming a more and more highly charged social and political issue by making it personal, and by balancing the tone of his speech perfectly. The issue is bigger than just the kids he was talking to, and he went to that, but only briefly, and only as a way of giving scope to the issue. He then pulled back and focused on how they could grow for themselves a wonderful life.

He took an issue that they will most likely deal with in some form for the rest of their lives and spoke to them about them. So that they can start there. So that they can decide what they want out life. And whatever social or political things they run into, they'll form their own opinions.

It's difficult to take a large topic and not lecture and not be heavy handed, but he did it was impressive grace, and and was also able to speak to the students well on a personal level and they seemed to be comfortable with him.


It's not just bumper stickers, though that's part of it.

We create systems so that kids who love journalism and want to be journalists, never take it in high school because it's not an AP, they never take journalism and are never on the paper. They don't do the one thing they love, because they have to look good instead.

Or you're a pre-med or law student and in high school you were bad at history and English, so you put off those req until you've gotten into.... And you take them and discover that you love history. And four years into college, you change your major. School used to be about learning, college too. And about discovering what you were good at, what you wanted to do with your life.

Now students declare before going in, some states are trying to let you major in high school. Now some kids are lucky and have a great talent or passion. But we've stopped learning and pushing ourselves, instead choosing things that are comfortable to us or we know are profitable.


Yes, I loved it - finally someone told this new ME generation what is up. Most teenagers today are smartphone carrying morons. I'm 36, so not an "old" fuddy duddy.


It's very social and very political. We are the best in the world. And we have the bumper stickers to prove it.

When the kid grows up, and takes the PSAT, and we get them a tutor and test prep and then the SAT and they get a great score, they're the best, they're talented. No one thinks about the fact that even before they changed the scoring system, a 1600 a decade ago was nowhere near a 1600 four decades ago.

We've can't admit when we aren't the best. Anytime anyone points out somewhere where we're not doing as well, or outright failing, they're not a patriot. Someone says, "this is working really well for _, why don't we try it?" and they're a socialist or a marxist or both(?). They couldn't possibly be trying to fix a problem in a place they care about deeply.

You either have the trophy, or you, personally, failed. We've lost both collective responsibility, and the ability to see that we've stopped winning and opened a trophy making factory in it's place.


I try to teach my children the same. I love them, they are special to me, but anything in this world worth a damn requires hard work, determination, and never is free. I've seen so many "blessed, talented, special people" fail so hard and never recover due to always being propped up by others. It's a tragic circle that somehow is common place.

Reminds me of a time when my eldest was learning to ride a bicycle. She had fallen, hard, and her mother and I rushed to her side. She smiled, picked herself up, and said, "It's okay. We just fall to learn how to get back up." Wise words from a then four year old. I hope I never let her forget that.

P.S. Failure is only when we stop trying, until then it's undetermined.


Watched it. One of the best I've heard.


I went to my little sister's graduation a couple weeks back - the list of Valedictorians was very long - 20 out of the 300 or so graduates. It sure didn't seem to mean anything.


@luvche21: How did they decide? I remember way back when, my school had co-valedictorians because the top two kids had 4.0s in AP classes and did the same number of activities (and were both good friends of mine besides!) Since they matched perfectly on paper, there was no way to pick one over the other so they called it a tie. If 20 people pulled that off, I'd say they TOTALLY deserved to share the honor, and it absolutely meant something

But if it was just "let's award the title to the top twenty people even if they had a 2.5" it's a little different.


The cynic in me says yes. The idealist in me says no. They fight constantly.
Usually, the cynic wins.

Once everyone is "special", then no one is "special".


I don't know if you watch Parenthood, but there's a great episode wherein a set of parents is brought to the abrupt and very rude realization that they have not taught their child how to lose. I am an intensely competitive person, but I always see myself as the true opponent. I don't have to win, although winning is the tertiary goal. The primary goal is to do my best, and if I have done it before, to do better than the last time. The secondary goal is to learn something while doing it. I feel that the obsession with winning and the desire to make every child a winner and consequently the decision to lower the goal till they can all achieve it makes everyone losers. I live in Texas, the land of "No child left behind". But some kids should be "left behind", not promoted despite failing to grasp the material. We do them and society a disservice by graduating illiterate kids from HS and college.


@slydon: I don't know how they decided - it seemed like they were trying to pat as many people on the back as they could, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because everyone needs compliments to some extent.


I up-voted everyone's answer so they would feel good about themselves. Great job everyone!


Wonderful speech, long overdue. Now to the business of restoring "the world doesn't owe you a living".


I loved the line about passably attractive sales reps at tradeshows in Cincinnati

Though I admit this seems to be about 50% rant and 50% good point


It seemed to be very accurate.


So somebody finally had the stones to publicly take a flame thrower to everyone's special little snowflakes? Good for him!


Saw it and liked it. Can't believe it, but this is my high school. I was on the same football field 29 years ago (30 for my sister). Oddly enough, they are still wearing the same red synthetic caps and gowns.

I really loved his speech, but it is very much hated by many. This teacher happens to be the son of David McCullough, the historian, of Sam Adams, 1776 and many others. I thought "The Path Between The Seas" was one of the best pure history books I've read in years (and I was reading a great deal of them at the time). If you are looking for something to read, pick one of these. You will be happy you did, and much smarter after.


Thanks for bringing it up; I wouldn't have heard it if you hadn't. I think he was brave to give the speech; I'm wondering what his colleagues and the parents have to say. I thought it was very well done and I hope at least a few of the graduating class "got it"


Gever Tulley gave a great TED talk on tinkering and failing as a kid.. thought it might be an appropriate follow up video.. It's only 4 minutes.. give it a watch.

@wnyx585am I see what you did there :)