rules your kids won’t learn in school

I read this earlier today. Usually I wouldn’t even think twice about these kinds of things but I saw that this seemingly innocent picture had over 12,000 shares!  It’s all well-intentioned, but it’s so not motivational.  It’s like a graphic lecture encompassing all the reasons why parents don’t understand how they’re limiting their children and why children think their parents are ruining their lives.  So, for the sake of possibly inspiring even one paradigm shift here goes my antithesis to the 11 rules your kids won’t learn in school.

Rule 1: Life is not fair– get used to it.
Okay, how many times have we all heard this?  Life isn’t fair.  Well, if we just got used to it then where would we go?  What would life be like if we all just groaned and took the unfairness like that’s what we’re supposed to do?  For starters, the United States of America wouldn’t exist.  While that could be a good thing in ways (what with indigenous assimilation and genocide), the point is that a bunch of people agreed that their life wasn’t fair and took control back.  The U.S. government is founded because life wasn’t fair and they didn’t want to get used to it.  Labor Unions exist because life wasn’t fair and they didn’t want to get used to it.  Occupy Wall Street is all about people saying life isn’t fair and we don’t believe it has to be this way!  Yes, that’s right– life can be fair.  It’s all in a matter of what you think.  If you think you have to take the crap because that’s just what you have to do, you’ll take it.  If you think you don’t have to take the crap, well you just might make history.  If nothing else, you’ll live a life that is fair to you.  Isn’t that the whole point?

Rule 2: The world doesn’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
There are a lot of ways to break this down so starting from the top: what’s the world?  To some, the world is school, family, friends, neighborhood, and city you live in.  To others the world is the entire earth with all 7 billion people.  In some ways, no the world as the earth with all 7 billion people doesn’t care about your self-esteem personally.  Collectively, however, all 7 billion people would likely prefer to be happy.  Therefore your positive self worth is important. However, if the world didn’t care about your self-esteem at all, suicide would be legal.  It’s not.  So even though the world won’t stroke your ego until you walk around with an inflated self worth, it doesn’t want you to think there’s no hope and kill yourself.

As for the world’s expectations, no one expects anything of you for you to feel good about yourself.  How you feel is entirely up to you.  What you accomplish is entirely up to you.  The expectations you have are usually given to you by your family and possibly teachers or other figures in your life.  But the world doesn’t expect you to accomplish anything to feel good about yourself.  Family does.  Other people who believe this stuff do.  If you feel great about yourself and there’s no “accomplishment”, people freak out because they think you couldn’t possibly have any reason to feel so great.  That doesn’t mean that you’re wrong for having positive self-esteem and no tangible or obvious accomplishment.  Just being happy is an accomplishment in and of itself so don’t let the critics tell you otherwise.

Also, what is an “accomplishment” anyway?  Isn’t making it almost 10 months in utero, birthing from your mother’s womb into the world, learning how to breathe, how to drink, how to eat, how to crawl, how to move your arms at your own will, how to walk, how to run, how to ride a bike, how to cook your own food, tie your own shoelaces, put your own clothes on… aren’t these all accomplishments?  Just the very fact you’ve made it to this day is an accomplishment!  And further more, using a computer, a cell phone and reading are accomplishments.  So feel great about yourself and all that you do in a moment to exist in this entirely complex world.

Rule 3: You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school.  You won’t be a vice president with a car phone until you earn both.
Says who?  There’s nothing from stopping anyone from starting up a free blog or better yet a twitter feed like shit my dad says from Justin Halepern.  After 10 years of “struggling” he started a twitter feed based entirely off the ridiculous things his dad said for fun.  It wound up being a big hit and made him at least $50,000 just from the TV show (there was a book as well).  Sure he was out of school by that point and struggling to “make it” for 10 years but high schoolers these days have way more opportunities than someone like Halpern had right out of school.  Get on it!  Another prime example of ingenious “make more than $60K without breaking a sweat” ideas: another guy raised $1,000,000 (yup, one million) just by selling pixels by the hundred (Millon Dollar Homepage).

If you’re in high school, what is stopping you from coming up with some brilliant and simple idea that takes little to no time out of your regular routine?  There are iphone apps, there are webpages, websites, blogs, twitters, and all sorts of media and media opportunities that allow you to make tons of money without even having to graduate high school.  So maybe you can found your own company from the comfort of your bedroom (you know, like facebook) and be president/CEO (instead of limiting yourself to VP for whatever inexplicably reason– as if you’re not good enough to be president of your own deal!).  If you do decide to found your own deal, then try not to be shady about it like many have accused Mark Zuckerberg of being.  Regardless, with all the free time you spend texting, emailing, watching TV, wandering around aimlessly, you could be designing the next Facebook, or the next Angry Birds, LOL Cats, or whatever else.  The possibilities are endless.  Don’t limit your thinking to less than $60,000 a year.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough wait till you get a boss.
I don’t think bosses are as tough as teachers.  And if you call a teacher tough because he or she will flunk you if you don’t turn in your work, I call it pretty freakin’ sadistic.  In the “real” world (whatever that is) you’ll get fired and it won’t negatively impact you aside from losing a job.  In school, you’ll get flunked which can effectively limit your ability to get in to a decent school.  If you don’t get into a decent university then you won’t be able to get a high paying job easily (see rule 5).  Flunking can also send you to special education classes because you’re not performing academically, it can get you sent to the principal’s office because you’re not participating, it can get you a whole slew of shit just because you don’t see the purpose in your homework.  I’m not saying don’t do homework, I’m just pointing out that a “tough” boss is way less damaging to your life than a “tough” teacher.  A tough teacher can cost you an academic scholarship.  A tough boss makes you stress for a month on where you’ll work next if you get fired.  Totally not the same thing.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity.  Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.
First, our grandparents (assuming, of course, that by grandparents you’re referring to the Greater Generation who lived through World War 1, the Great Depression, World War 2 and everything since then) were the ones who started the burger flipping as hamburger joints have only been around since the 1950’s and back then it was a great opportunity.  No one had a hamburger joint or a drive-in 60 years ago so it was a great new thing.  Now, you see more of these drive-ins or hamburger joints than any other establishment. So even though it’s quite understandable why this would be viewed as an opportunity, it’s not really true these days.  There are way better “opportunities” out there.

For a first job, sure, flip burgers.  When you don’t have anything else to use money for in the world, a minimum wage job like flipping hamburgers is perfect.  When you have a family to support, when you have bills to pay (for that college education everyone said you should get), and when you have places you want to go, flipping burgers just isn’t going to cut it.  Even if you were resigned to only flip burgers, you would have to double up shifts and the company will have to pay you overtime (which isn’t going to happen) so you might as well get another job.  If you have another job, you have no time for opportunity since you are up to the fryer with opportunity.  If you “resign” yourself to “flipping burgers” you’re not getting that car phone.  Can’t be VP of a company if you’re busy working under someone else at the griddle.  Where is the dignity in that?  It’s so not the job, it’s the system! There’s no opportunity at a place that doesn’t offer benefits with a pay cap for Store Manager at around $40K.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes.  Learn from them.
If you mess up, it’s probably your parents’ fault.  Seriously.  Go ahead: blame your parents!  They likely did a shoddy job of raising you and you know what, if they’re honest parents, they’ll agree with you. Parents say so much ridiculous stuff to their kids and instill all sorts of terrible thoughts in their heads because parents were raised with the same nonsense.  Then we all wonder where we get these ideas and why we are as messed up as we are– it’s generational!  We all know our parents messed up but for some reason we eventually buy into this “it’s not my parent’s fault I’m messed up– it’s mine.”  It’s your parent’s fault.  Just acknowledge they messed up. You might even have empathy or sympathy for their plight– all the better.  It’s okay to be messed up because of your family. That’s what the modern human condition is: generations of messed up people.

The thing is, once you realize your parents messed you up, you can’t keep blaming them.  You have to take responsibility for yourself.  You can totally see your mom coming out of your mouth when you quit your job.  You can totally see your dad coming out of your mouth when you talk to your partner, and so on and so forth.  Once you have enough clarity to see what you’re doing, then it’s up to you to make the change.  Then you quit whining and learn something.  You can’t learn something, however, if you aren’t being honest about what the source of the problem is.  Rightly attributing blame and then working through it is more helpful than pretending your parents are perfect (or imperfect but perfect parents that don’t leave you with scars that might cause you to act stupid).

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were.  So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
This feels like more than one rule but whatever.  If your parents are boring because they have kids, that’s their fault.  There is no rule that says you can’t be a really cool parent and that you can’t get progressively cooler as you age.  There is also no rule that says that bills are exclusive to the expenses of rearing children (though it’s expensive to raise kids) and that listening to their offspring talk about how cool they are sucks the coolness out of parents.  That’s all pretty silly.  Parents should love listening to their kids speak and if they’re not listening, if parents don’t think their kids are as cool (or cooler) than the kids think they are, then that’s the parents’ problem not the kid.  Whatever delousing the closet in your own room means…

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer.  This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
In very few schools have failing grades been abolished.  Even so, having as many times as you want to get the right answer isn’t completely removed from “real life.”  This sounds an awful lot like applying for jobs.  If your resume doesn’t read the right answers to the application, then you don’t get the job.  Oh well– re-do your resume, add some stuff, subtract some stuff, and then re-submit your resume to the same place or somewhere else.  There isn’t a cap on how many times you apply to a place or how many places you apply.  Just as a non-failing grade would mean there isn’t a cap on how long it takes you to get the right answer to get the right grade, there’s no winning or losing in the “real world”– there is just persistence.

On a side note, you can create some sort of educational system just like this “no fail zone” (which apparently is a trademarked idea or graphic) and sell it to schools.  Not only will this seemingly irrelevant classroom structure make sense, it will make you money.  Everything can be something if you have the mind to see it (all ethics and considerations for the students aside). 😉

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Life is actually divided into semesters– they’re called seasons.  You can get off whatever season you want and if you’re a teacher, you’ll get summers off for sure.  Work a job that allows you to find yourself, work with an employer that allows you to find yourself.  More importantly work for an employer (yourself included) that allows you your own time to do whatever you please, like find yourself.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
You will not hear any argument from me about TV being a waste of time.  However, in “real life” people have varying degrees of “going to jobs.”  Maybe you work in a coffee shop, so you won’t leave it and go to your job.  If you’re a writer, you might prefer to work in a coffee shop.  If you’re an artist, you might work in a coffee shop.  If you’re a graphic designer, you might work in a coffee shop.  There are lots of reasons in real life, that people don’t actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to their jobs.  The greater point is that a “job” doesn’t have to be cumbersome and boring.  A “job” can allow you freedom and good pay on your terms.  You can design your own job, you don’t have to buy into the idea that working is the worst thing ever– you know, that life sucks get over it.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll wind up working for one.
The likelihood of you working for a nerd is slim and being nice to nerds specifically will not necessarily make a better job opportunity for yourself in the future.  Be nice to everyone.  Working under someone doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be working for a nerd either.  A whole comic has been written about nerds working for … the life’s unfair crowd to say the least.  

So with all that said, if you listen to this sort of thing and buy into it, you’re buying into the idea that life is hard, that you aren’t supposed to enjoy yourself unless you’ve accomplished something great, that no matter how hard you work life is just unfair and you’re going to suffer unless you can get a decent job by kissing ass to someone smarter and with a better job than you.  Ugh, I feel depressed just writing that.

Life is supposed to be full of bliss, joy, and sustainable happiness!  Every day is precious, every day is an accomplishment!  You are full of talents that no one else possesses and you are amazing in a way that no one else is!  We are all capable and deserving of a life that is fair to us and a life that is happy and allows us to find ourselves.  So honor your beauty within.  Allow yourself to envision a better life that doesn’t include limiting your mind to the way “everyone” (who are these people anyway?) thinks it should go.

Here are some alternate “rules” to ponder:

  • 1. Life is supposed to be fair.  So make life fair and don’t stop until it’s fair to you.
  • 2. The world cares about your self esteem because when you’re happy the world is a better place.
  • 3. Your entire life is an accomplishment. You don’t need any more proof of accomplishing something than your existence.
  • 4. You can make millions at any time– all it takes is ingenuity and a bit of work.
  • 5. Why be VP when you can be CEO?  Why settle for a car phone when you can have your own jet?
  • 6. Teachers are tougher than bosses but they mean well.
  • 7. Flipping burgers is a dead end job. If it wasn’t, it would still be called opportunity.
  • 8. If you mess up, it’s probably your parents’ fault.  What makes you great is taking responsibility for their short-comings anyway.
  • 9. If your parents are boring now, that’s their fault. If they weren’t impressed with your self-worth, that’s their fault. Who says you can’t de-louse your closet (whatever that means) and save the rainforest while knowing your as cool as you think you are?
  • 10. Tweaking your answers until you get it right is just like applying for a job. Every part of school is a direct reflection of something going on it the “real” world (even if you don’t see it right away).
  • 11. No one says you have to go to work, you just have to deal with the consequences of that action.
  • 12. Be nice to everyone. This isn’t a career move that will pay off in 10 years– it’s just being a good person.

With nothing but love,



Oh yeah… and rules are made to be broken. 🙂

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