Words of wisdom sometime come from unexpected sources. The more succinct they are, the more impact they have but, equally, the harder they are to put together. An old adage says it takes three hours to write a one-hour speech, but it takes ten hours to write a twenty-minute speech…or a variation on that theme.

      I just read a report that qualifies both for “A few words of wisdom” and a well-thought-out five-minute speech. I thought it was worth sharing.

      The youth of today appear to think they are “owed” by their society, at a level of perceived entitlement that has no basis in reality, particularly once they get out into the real world. It reminds me of a shock I received when I first came to the United States and observed how, in my perception, American parents appeared to be afraid of their children or, at least, to be more concerned about being their friends than being their parents.

      I vividly remember an episode when a professor/colleague of mine came to England with his family and stayed at my parents’ house. There weren’t enough beds, so the teenage son slept on the sofa in the living room. The next morning, we needed to get into that room, but the professor said he couldn’t disturb the son until he woke up. I was amazed and went straight in and told the kid to get up. A petty example, I admit, but it got me thinking about how that situation had arisen.

      I was/am an education professor, and my conclusion was that Dr. Spock, remember him, had so scared a whole generation of American parents by suggesting that they were doing horrible psychological damage to the kids if they didn’t let their “free spirits” control their actions. Disciplining them, he intimated, inhibited their psychological well-being and that was bad. Parents ended up being afraid of their kids, and the kids ruled the household, and that approach hardly prepared them for the real world.

      The following speech by Bill Gates brought back those memories and conclusions. Gates was invited by a high school to give a lecture. He arrived by helicopter, took the paper from the pocket where he had written eleven items. He read everything in less than 5 minutes, was applauded for more than 10 minutes non-stop, thanked everyone, and left in his helicopter. What he said qualifies, I believe, for my definition, at least, of “A few words of wisdom”.

1. Life isn’t easy — get used to it.

2. The world is not concerned about your self-esteem. The world expects you to do something useful for it BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

3. You will not earn $20,000 a month once you leave school. You won’t be vice president of a company with a car and phone available until you’ve managed to buy your own car and phone.

4. If you find your teacher rude, wait until you have a boss. He will not feel sorry for you.

5. Selling old newspapers or working while on vacation is not beneath your social standing. Your grandparents have a different word for it: they call it opportunity.

6. If you fail, it’s not your parents’ fault. So do not whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

7. Before you were born, your parents weren’t as critical as they are now. They only got that way from paying your bills, washing your clothes and hearing you say they’re “ridiculous.” So before saving the planet for the next generation, wanting to fix the mistakes of your parent’s generation, try cleaning your own room.

8. Your school may have blurred the distinction between winners and losers, but life isn’t like that. In some schools, you can repeat years, and you have as many chances as you need to get it right. This looks absolutely NOTHING like real life. In the real world, if you screw-up, you’re fired. Do it right the first time!

9. Life is not divided into semesters. You won’t always have summers off, and it’s unlikely that other employees will help you with your tasks at the end of each term.

10. Television is NOT real life. In real life, people have to leave the bar or the club and go to work.

11. Learn how to be nice to the CDFs (those students that others think are assholes). There is a high probability that you will work FOR one of them.

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