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The Rules You Weren’t Taught At School

The Rules You Weren’t Taught At School

I came across a great article highlighting a speech Bill Gates apparently gave to an audience of high school students in 2003, but as I dug a bit deeper I found out this amazing speech and its list of rules was actually an article written by Charles J Sykes in 1996 for the San Diego Union Tribune.

Sykes article Some Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School  offers “a modest back-to-school offering” where he shares some basic rules that may not have found their way into the school curriculum, and when I read this list of rules I couldn’t agree more. Each point is true and relevant, even 21 years later. To the Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y’s these rules seem so obvious- not only because its been tried and tested- but because that’s the way the world worked when growing up.

When I finished the article my immediate thought was, “I know people who need to read this, absorb this, and change their mindset.” This polluted, false entitlement is everywhere; this belief that they deserve things and the world owes them. These same people feel the situation they are in is someone else’s fault and not their own, the life they were born into is why they fail, and an opportunity they have just isn’t good enough for them. They don’t seems to want to get their hands dirty, push their comfort zone, take a chance, change the current situation and prove they can do it.

But what these individuals don’t seem to get is hard work DOES pays off. There is no elevator to success – you do have to take the stairs again and again – but you can get there. There are also those individuals (we all know a few) who have luck on their side and whether it be an individual or a particular situation that moved them up they are in a seat they shouldn’t be sitting in. But that’s life, and as Rule 1 states, life isn’t fair. For everyone else on the playing field, no – it’s not level, but dig those cleats in and go work hard to score some goals!

Some Rules Kids Won’t Learn In School
Copy By Charles J. Sykes Printed in San Diego Union Tribune September 19, 1996

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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


Thank you Charles Sykes for writing a timeless piece of raw truth to what life really is. I would like to add a rule to this:

Rule 12: Give credit where credit is due.

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