The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Those eleven rules...

Now that everyone else has had their shot at those pesky rules, I thought it would only be fair for me to add my own ideas…

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!
Absolutely vital.  Of course, that doesn’t mean life is “unfair’ in the usual sense, either.  Life just “is.”  We make judgments about it, and that’s when we run into trouble.  Work to make society more responsive and “fair”?  Certainly.  Scream at heaven when a child dies of cancer?  Normal and natural…but expecting the world to be as kind as it was to us when we were children can drive you insane, or break you. 

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Self-esteem is great—when it gives you the personal power to actually believe you can accomplish your dreams, and sends you out to work harder than you ever have in your life to do just that.  It’s a tricky balance: to me, real self-esteem is believing that there is no one better than me.  False self-esteem is thinking I’m better than other people.  Thinking that the world owes you anything, or that other people should sit up and recognize your right to act the way you want without regard for the wishes and rights of others…that’s something different.  I often hear that “criminals have too much Self-Esteem.”  I have no idea what that means, and certainly doesn’t jibe with my observations.  In the criminal classes, murders and violence often happen because of a verbal insult, a hostile look, an imagined slight.  This is not self-esteem. This is a gigantic, fragile ego, terrified that deep inside there is nothing.  Unless the world reflects the image such a person  desires, it is hugely threatening.  REAL Self-esteem is not affected by the slights and opinions of others.  Whatever these psychologists are measuring, they most definitely are not measuring the same thing I’m talking about.

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.

I’ve known few people deluded enough to think they’d instantly get rich…this is true enough.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Amen.  Or a mortgage banker.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Again, amen.  It’s great to have the connections to immediately land some cushy job.  But useless to complain if you don’t have them.  Study the lives of people who’ve worked their way up from the bottom, and model their attitudes and actions.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them. 

Actually, I’ve seen instances where it IS the parent’s fault.  However, it is still every individual’s responsibility to make their lives work, to have the vibrancy, relationships, and career that they desire.  Thinking it is, or could ever be, someone else’s primary concern is deadly to your dreams.

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.

Hah! I love this.  And it applies to so many things in life.  Not a teenager’s problem—it is darned near universal.  That’s where the sayings about glass houses and motes in the eye come from.

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.

You know?  I disagree with this a bit.  Opportunity comes in life again and again and again.  If you learn the lessons of your mistakes, you can start over again with a new relationship, a new health program, a new job, career, or business.  We get many chances to get it right.

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.

Very true.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Actually, a huge percentage of television shows have always been about occupations: cops, lawyers, firemen, teachers, doctors, whatever.  This is a rather snide comment.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Hah!  Some truth here, if by “nerd” you mean someone who actually cares about learning the lessons placed before them.  But as someone observed, the real winners tend to be those who can learn the abstract information AND manage people well.

Just my thoughts.

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