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!


Pigtown*Design said...

I heard this interview and he was fabulous! If everything's special, then nothing is.

RenΓ© said...

Thank you for sharing this! I'm definitely intrigued and want to learn more. The timing is perfect! Happy weekend!

The Silver Bunny said...

I had never heard of this gentleman but his words are really clever and interesting, as well as your comments on them.

Kerry Steele- Design du Monde said...

Thanks for sharing that. I have a couple teens who could stand to read that.

Annapolady said...

Definitely food for thought. Thanks for posting - I hadn't heard of him.

Hartwood Roses said...

Wow, Michele, that was really profound. Seems to cut right to the heart of what may be in the way of success for a lot of people.

Mary Jo said...

Such a good point and definitely some food for thought. Fear of not being special enough or maintaining it once you have achieved something special, that is just a syndrome our whole society suffers from. Thanks for this post!

Karena Albert said...

I haven't read this however it is certainly calling me now, especially with a 14 year old granddaughter!

The Arts by Karena

therelishedroost said...

Just how I raised my girls, when they did their best they received praise but not for everything they did, and they were aware that others had special talents that they may not be able to have. I have to get this book! Thanks for sharing!

helen tilston said...

I like you philosophy and analysis.
Have a great weekend


Elizabeth @ The Little Black Door said...

Amen. I just heard him on NPR and couldn't agree more.


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