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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Curse Of The Special Ones

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One of my favorite characters on Saturday Night Live was Dana Carvey as "Church Lady."

Every sketch was a little diatribe about sin and a guest who would no doubt go to Hell.

The point of the character of course was to point out that it was Church Lady who was warped. No matter what, you were a sinner.

But if you look at her character another way, from the perspective of 2014, she becomes interesting in another way.

Everybody today seems to think they're special. Even if they're really not.

I am tempted to blame Barney. Remember his famous song, "Everyone Is Special?" It's one of those songs that got burned into my brain from endless repetition.



"You Are Special" was an educational theory even if they didn't call it one. At school and at camp, everybody had to get a certificate for something, no matter what.

I remember wondering how they came up with the titles. Like:

"Best Punctuality."

"Most Motivated."

"For Surpassing All Of Her Own Expectations."

In contrast, if you look at the films of the Generation X generation, you can see that the message was a bit different. 

Our generation did not have our hands held. Not because our parents didn't care, but because most of the time, nobody was home. (Your experience may differ.)

The 80's movie "The Breakfast Club" depicted a bunch of teenagers whose parents were physically or mentally absent, or who lacked the ability or understanding of how a parent is supposed to act.

The Breakfast Club image via What's On Netflix

There are very real social outcomes to mis-calibrated egos:
  • Workplace disengagement:  If you give a kid the "gift" of grandiosity, you can expect that they will see themselves as budding Mark Zuckerbergs very naturally and will expect to be treated accordingly. How much does the turnover cost, the loss of institutional knowledge, the people sitting around promoting themselves instead of the team? What happens at work when the next step up the ladder becomes more important than actually doing the job right?
  • Relationship conflict: "Why should I bother?" What is the cost when people begin relationships with the attitude that they come first - their career shouldn't suffer, that they have to be fulfilled all the time, that they will bail if they're "just not into it" anymore, just like they saw on TV?
The way to get ego and its costs out of the picture is to focus on the task at hand. Logically, impersonally. Keeping yourself out of it.

The former Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir had that attitude. During her tenure she dealt with the Yom Kippur War, the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, and more. 

Once she was asked to put women under curfew due to occurrences of rape. Here was her logical reply: “But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.”

Her best quote of all time encapsulates the no-ego attitude: 

"Don't be so humble. You're not that great."

Photo via MotleyNews

* All opinions my own.