Friday, April 25, 2014
You are Not Special
You may remember David McCullough, Jr., the high school teacher whose 2012 commencement speech to the students of Wellesley high school went viral. He now has a book out that expands on the ideas in his speech and I found the the full title, You Are Not Special: ... And Other Encouragements, well, for want of a better word - encouraging. Yesterday on the Diane Rehm Show, he said something that I think might capture his main point. (You can listen to the full show on WAMU here.)
"Everyone is special, everyone is important. If you think of it that way then, it kind of nullifies the concept of "specialness". It's a statistical inevitability that most of us are kind of average and there's nothing wrong with that. That's really a big part of my point...Let's get past that. One will be judged on who you are and what you do. And, one should not assume that every success and accolade will fall into one's lap simply because you're a good person. Life just doesn't work that way…"
While the book is arguably targeted towards parents and teenagers, it seems there could be a message for all of us.
Cultivating a culture of specialness can lead to feelings of entitlement and privilege. While that's true and a bit unseemly, there's another cost. Specialness can become debilitating, fostering fear of failure and feelings of inadequacy.
Which makes me wonder, how many of us aren't pursuing our real dreams because we're not feeling "the right kind of special" ?
OK, that's my philosophical moment for this Friday. Hope you have a wonderfully ordinary weekend!