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When did it become taboo to fail and recognize your limits?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Mostly reflecting on random things, and it struck me one day that as a society, we’re pretty comfortable with being average or mediocre.

It’s just so much easier.

Why the heck would we want to work hard? Push ourselves? Be extreme?

Think differently and do things differently?


Some examples that made me think of this, was reading a book about how we’re quite narcissistic as a society and how it wasn’t like that before.

In there, it talks about helicopter parents who have pretty much pampered, babied and praised their children for doing the most banal of things their entire life, to the point where they’re all self-absorbed little narcissists.

NOTE: I am well aware that having a blog and writing about what I think, is the epitome of self-absorbed narcissism if I have ever seen one.

As a rather weak defense, I offer to you that this blog is more therapeutic for me and a time-consuming “free” hobby, than it is as a need to show off, but I do recognize that it is a narcissistic hobby.

Anyway, in the book it cites examples about teaching kids how being themselves is so important. Everyone is a fabulous, unique snowflake, they’re all brilliant budding geniuses, and don’t you DARE tell them otherwise.


But honestly, we’re going too far, and it’s starting to show, especially with clients I work with. At any given company, after about 2 months, I have a list of people I’d fire if I was the head there.

Can you believe that? I can see in about 2 months of asking questions and trying to get information from them, every single person who is useless at the company and not at all worth the salary they are being paid.

People who should be fired, who have enough skills and capabilities to work at fast food or retail minimum-wage jobs, if that.

On average, about 50% of employees in any given company can and should be fired.

I guess it’s kind of mean to say that.

No scratch that, it’s really mean to say that, but it’s the truth and I can say what I want on my self-absorbed blog.

Honestly, from my experience of seeing companies do this, if you fired these useless workers, the company would continue to function just as well as before.

Perhaps better now that they aren’t around to bog down the company and jam the wheels.

For me, either you are capable at the job you are doing, or you are not. Period.

There’s no in-between and I think when I express such opinions, people say things like:

“You can’t say that! That’s so mean!

She tried SO HARD.

She tried her best and that’s what counts.”

Actually no. That’s NOT what counts.

What counts is getting the job done.

What counts is that you don’t miss the deadline, the work is near perfect (or actually perfect, given how much time was spent on it), and it was done impeccably.

What counts the most, is that people around you who are more capable, don’t have to REDO YOUR DAMN JOB FOR YOU because you didn’t do what you were supposed to, and EFFED IT UP.

THAT is what counts.

It’s like they’re telling me that even though she reached a mediocre result and failed, she should STILL be praised and paid the same amount of money as someone who puts in the same amount of effort but delivered a stellar result.

Are you kidding me? I’d just fire her after giving her another supervised task to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

Are we just praising mediocre, average people now, just because we don’t want to hurt their feelings?

Maybe we SHOULD hurt their feelings so that they stop screwing up the job, and find another company to work at, in another area that they can actually excel in and deserve the money they are making.


Think about disciplines like sports.

You are either the best or you are not.

There’s no award for showing up at the Olympics and participating. You don’t get a gold medal for being chosen to go to the Olympics.

You have to beat everyone there to get that medal, which is what makes it so much sweeter when you DO get it.



Think of Olympians like swimmer MIchael Phelps who won 22 Olympic medals.

He WAS (and for me) is still the best, and that’s why he won all those medals.

He is a winner and deserved every medal he got.

It’s pretty easy to see in sports who is a winner and who is a loser, but in life, it is a lot more difficult because you don’t want to crush children’s spirits and dreams….. but I think we’re going a bit far with that.

You’re not going to ever imagine when you first start swimming, that you might be an Olympian one day.

Maybe as you get better, you start to see whether or not you have a potential for it and can start training full-time, but when you start as a kid splashing around the wading pool, you aren’t dreaming of medals.

So why don’t we hold ourselves and our kids to the same standards in life?


Telling a kid “Good Job” for every time they do something banal and not worthy of actual praise, robs the child of the feeling of true praise.

Take for instance my nephew the other day. He fell down and got back up without anyone helping him.

My brother says: “Good job, kid!

….. good job for what, exactly?

Getting up off the floor?

Not lying there for the rest of your life?

I mean what were the other options for him other than to stand back up?

Are we so stupid these days that we are anxious and overeager to praise children at very young ages for NORMAL things?

He’s just going to expect praise to do what is he supposed to do now. He’s been trained to expect to be brilliant without deserving it.

An excellent example of bull*$& in our schools




Everyone wins awards in school now, not just the ones who deserve it because they were smart AND they worked hard.

Awards for participation, awards for having the best spirit on a team… I mean all of this sounds rather familiar as I was growing up.

Did life ever give anyone money to clear their student debts just because they showed up and participated in college education?

That idea is so ridiculous, it is laughable.

Parents are now slaves to their children, and are constantly telling them how great and special they are for burping, for doing basic things, for having a spark of BASIC MANNERS by saying “thank you” to people.

Right, because that’s what actually happens in life, right?

Your boss will give you a 10% raise because you said “Thank you” when he opened the door for you.



There is a stigma against being #1, and being a winner.

You shouldn’t want to be a winner, you should choose to let EVERYONE win because.. well, as the author put it quite sarcastically, it reflects reality oh so well doesn’t it?

Being a winner is a bad thing these days.

You can’t gloat about it, you can’t be proud that you accomplished it, you just sound like a braggart for one thing, and for another, you are making other kids who tried JUST AS HARD, feel bad about not winning.


Never mind that you worked hard, you tried harder and you were just BETTER, you can’t actually enjoy your win because everyone is a winner.

Look, I am all for self-esteem in a child so that they do not feel depressed, like they’re a loser their entire lives, and can accomplish something, but there’s a line that has to be drawn somewhere.

You can’t tell every kid that they’ll be a winner because they won’t be.


When did it become taboo to fail?

I’ve failed and sucked at plenty of stuff in my life. I try not to dwell on it so that it doesn’t bring me down, but… hey, that’s reality.


I’ve lost plenty of things, like the campaign I did in freshman year to become president of a club I was part of.

I lost by a rather wide margin and it hurt, but I got over it. It wasn’t meant for me, even though I still think I would have been perfect at it.

I tried really hard, spent a lot of time and worked my but off to win, but I still lost.

In recent years, I’ve lost out bidding on plenty of contracts in the last 5 years. They didn’t choose me because I didn’t look good on paper, or I bombed at the interview.

Or maybe they just didn’t think I had what it took.

These are all my failures that I’ve taken on, taken the risk doing, and chalked it up to being a learning experience for the next time.

I can only just try again after failing, but at least I am not being false-praised for something I didn’t earn.

Why are we trying to teach kids that no one fails at anything? That if you try hard, everything will work out?

They’ll just end up being disappointed when they DO fail, and fail miserably at a life that they are ill-prepared to lead.

Or maybe they’re just so used to fake winning all the time that when they do get out in the real world against others, they are surprised that they don’t get raises and promotions every 2 months just because they’re the loudest of the bunch but can’t do jack squat.


Ever go to a company and think: You guys goddamn suck. Your products suck, your customer service sucks and I can’t believe you are still in business.

(KitchenAid, Staples, and all you crap stores, I am looking at you)

Guess what? That’s the result of praising children who then grow up into adults who think that they’re the best in the world without having to do much.

Now that we don’t have ANY standards to hold people against because everyone is a winner, everyone has fallen into the curve of mediocrity.

Like they’re all inherent, budding geniuses without having the intelligence or the work ethic.

In contrast, Einstein was a true genius, and he was one person out of many generations.

Now, we just have a society filled with people who do a HALF-ASSED job at everything in their life.

  • At working out and losing weight.
  • At their jobs, slacking off while others pull their weight.
  • At their finances, not being able to become debt-free yet they own a $600 phone

All of this stuff adds up to one big fat ball of average-ness.

We have such LOW STANDARDS for everyone these days that it is easy to be stellar.

It results in a society and a culture of folks who don’t want to push themselves to do anything but sit on the couch, snack away and dream of a pill to take away their pain or a lottery ticket to solve their financial woes.


  • My Financial Independence Journey

    When I was growing up, doing well in school was expected. If I didn’t do well, there were negative consequences – and no one cared if my feelings were hurt. My parents would help me with my homework if they could (by the time I made it to high school, they couldn’t do much), they’d buy a graphing calculator or some other educational supply for me. But they would never run into school and demand that I get an A. My 4.0 was earned the old fashioned way, by studying hard.

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      You’d be surprised how many parents run into schools and demand that the teachers answer for why their kids didn’t do well.

      (I have a parent as a teacher.)

      It is SHOCKING to see the varying levels of effort and work between students. Some really deserve those top marks, the others don’t even deserve to pass.

      I’ve seen papers handed in, written in CRAYON by 8th graders and you can’t fail them.

  • PK

    Slow clap. (And I agree with you completely – only a complete narcissist would run a blog, ha).

    I would much rather kids are exposed to failure at a younger age, rather than making it to MIT or some other top school, getting a C, and turning suicidal with grief. Guess what – you can’t excel at everything even if you’re pretty solid at quite a few things…

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      See? Knew it. Self-absorbed people run blogs. Should put that on a T-shirt. 🙂

      Better to be solid at something rather than lied to your whole life only to realize you aren’t good at ANYTHING.

      It is actually a problem now for teachers to be sued by parents who think that they have been lied to by them all these years, passing their kid from grade to grade until they realize she can’t read or write properly. It makes me wonder what those parents were doing with their kid all those years.

  • Maya Symone

    End Rant.

    I never really got that whole give each kid a certificate for participation. It just seems counter-productive and makes kids feel like if they just show up to something they will be entitled to some prize. This just creates a sense of entitlement and undermines the importance of hard work. This entitled kids grow up to be entitled adults.
    I also don’t believe in praising people for doing what they should be doing, but you can appreciate them.

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      Yes, thank you. I forgot the “/rant” 🙂

      The book lists out the difference between praise and appreciation. You can love children and appreciate them, but you don’t need to compliment and praise them all day long to give them self-esteem and security. Love and appreciation is enough.

  • Tania

    Years ago, I was demonized by an employee and anyone who would listen to her (prior job, not my current) for hiring someone from outside for an open supervisor position. It was that kind of job it was hard to find someone with the exact type of experience we needed so I hired someone with little experience but very smart and with the type of education that would lend nicely to the position’s research and accounting system requirements. I didn’t promote the current staff because she could only do exactly what I told her in a very mechanical way, which meant I had to always step in and resolve any discrepencies when the point of the job was to identify and resolve discrepencies in the system. No matter how hard I tried to train her, she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) wrap her head around certain logic or understand how certain errors affect everyone. She also didn’t have a degree, which was a requirement. We could’ve worked around that if she could perform the job from experience but we already knew she couldn’t. She told everyone I was discriminating against her because of her lack of education. Uh,yeah, whatever.

    If I had promoted strictly on seniority, my life would’ve been HELL. I wouldn’t have had a life and my department wouldn’t have performed at the level it needed to and there would’ve been old unresolved errors in the system turning us into firefighters as in put that damn fire out now, deadline’s around the corner.

    It is funny you mention sports, I was watching Dance Moms (I was bored, ok) and I was shocked at all the emphasis on winning. I do think growing up competing strictly for the joy of winning, versus competing is important. But I agree with you, there can still be a winner. Everyone shouldn’t get a medal for sure. Sure, not everyone is going to get chosen for Broadway in real life but there is something to be said for kids growing up with healthy physical or creative pasttimes with the focus being on what it does for the soul and not being so performance/competitive focused. I agree with you kids need to not be afraid to fail and should fail at times so they can learn how to cope with it. They need to suffer consequences too like with the late homework someone else mentioned.

    By the way, I believe blogging puts you out there and open to criticism so not as self involved as one may assume. You are engaging. Some of the fashion ones do strike me as a bit too much look at me though.

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      You know, that is not surprising to hear your HR story.

      I see so many people who make it to become a manager and I think “HOW?”

      When I work with them, some employees are better for the position and more capable to be flexible in terms of finding solutions, and I can’t believe that it’s all based on seniority.

      As for that “discrimination against me because I don’t have a degree”.. umm.. that’s called a job requirement. What, should we just put that no one should show up to work on time either, because job descriptions are suggestions, not requirements now?

      It never fails to shock me how some people saunter in at 10 a.m. when I’ve been there since 8 a.m. on the dot, working when the offices open.

      Well thank you 🙂 I do feel sometimes it’s rather self-involved (showing finances, what I bought).. so I try to mentally keep myself in check.

      The fashion ones are a bit out there for a few of them, but I guess it’s hard not to be like that when the whole point of a fashion blog is that you are literally showing what you look like, and less of what you think as a person. Very on the surface, less in-depth.

      • Tania

        Funny, the whole outfit of the day thing yeah. I love it when I’m trying to decide whether to order something online because it’s helpful to see it on a real person. But during fashion week, I followed a bunch of fashion bloggers on instagram only to unfollow them a few days in. Their entire feed was pictures of themselves with other bloggers! See, I love fashion as art and I adore NYC and they were so self absorbed that they didn’t show anything else and also missed out on everyday objects like a cup of beautifully made expresso against a brick wall in soho (yeah I’m one of those). When I do social media event, there is rarely any shots of me, it’s about the event, other people attending, the props and decorations. I like people to feel like they are there with me. So mochi, I don’t think you’re all about me at all, you think very much about what’s going on around you (or in China!).

        • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

          Oh I am definitely one of those types that likes things like cups of tea against a nice brick wall 😉

          Thank you for that insight. I guess I do feel slightly aware.. or self-conscious that it is a blog that talks about my ideas, which in and of itself could manifest into something nasty.

  • Joe

    lol great rant. I felt the same way when I heard that Canadian minor soccer leagues are eliminating scores from games because it hurts kids’ feelings.

  • MelD

    Wow. We certainy have none of that in schools here.
    At the end of primary school (and you can fail any year, including KG), the teacher decides which level of secondary school you get to go to. If you go to the lower level, forget anything but the low-level apprenticeships (still, we do have those for everyone!). At the higher level it will also be the teacher who assesses what recommendation they will give you if you want to go on to the 4-year uni-prep school and you take an entrance exam. You fail, you fail. This is probably why our percentage of university students is unusually low, it really is the creme-de-la-creme.
    It’s not always “fair”, but grading is grading and you get what you get, depending a lot on your teacher. In secondary school you may only have 3 e.g. biology tests in an academic year – you can’t afford to have a low grade in a single one or you will fail the year. A lot of kids repeat a year or go down a level. They aren’t pandered to. The only other option a parent has is an expensive private school – if it will take your kid and the grades are good enough!
    The majority go into apprenticeships at 15/16 (there’s a lot of competition, those grades again…) and have to learn, even after all that, that they are the lowest level – a lot of bosses complain that the teens today feel so entitled and have to be taken down a peg or two. Most do fine in the end and we have a fine vocational training system.
    In addition, the boys get sent to army training at 20 – I haven’t yet met one who wasn’t improved by his 4 mths boot camp!!
    No country has a perfect education/academic system, but in comparison, ours isn’t too bad at all in this day and age.

  • Aleksie

    You wouldn’t want your doctor, car mechanic, bus driver, etc. to “try their best” when their best causes you harm that could’ve been prevented?

    Struggle is fine. I think there’s a time and place for compassion, too. But when someone isn’t doing work the way it should be and that person has been given a few tries to get it right, they should be let go. Barring dire situations, it may be for the best for that person to find what they enjoy and excel at rather than sucking at a job.

    The issue, to me, is people can’t be the best and extrinsically rewarded all the time at every task. I don’t think we as a society value pursuing something for the sheer joy of it. I take recreational ballet; I’m getting better and I enjoy it. I will never be a prima ballerina, dance professionally in ballet, etc. And a participation certificate wouldn’t change how much I enjoy that.

  • Elle @ ForHerByHer

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m not a teacher, so I can’t see what happens in their childhood, but being in HR, I see countless employees crying over ridiculous things.

    Running to HR over hurt feelings in a professional setting is something I still can’t understand. Hurt feeling because they completed ruined a project, but still want their effort to be recognized and the end result to be ignored. Unbelievable! Instead of telling them their work sucked you have a set protocol on how you handle these situations – pats on the back, giving recognition for useless things, etc.

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      My mother being a teacher, can’t believe the crap she has to put up with. If it’s not the kids telling you: I’m going to get you fired if you don’t give me the A that I deserve, it is the parents coming in and fighting with her about their kids’ marks when they didn’t do jack squat.

      You can’t even compare kids any more. You can’t show them the results of another child and say: THAT is the standard of 100%. You have to let them had in work late, take home tests to complete with their parents, and basically accomodate them to grow up to become useless, non-functioning, uneducated losers who can’t spell BASIC WORDS like “library” even in college.

      I feel a lot of sympathy for you in HR dealing with these people. They’re so entitled, it makes me annoyed. THEY SUCKED. Period. They should be happy they don’t get fired for sucking.

  • AdinaJ

    I grew up in a different era, culture, and continent, so this whole attitude is, well, very foreign to me. One of the biggest yearly events at my elementary school was prize day – the day that the top 3 students in every class got handed their prize certificates in front of the whole assembly. You better believe it that there was a special “cachet” to being one of those students, and no one would have dreamt of making fun of the “nerds” because they were what everyone ultimately aspired to be. Crazy, I know. Here, such a thing would be inconceivable for the reasons you mentioned.

    I’m by no means an advocate for breaking kids’ spirits (especially since I’m a mother myself), but I think there is a happy middle ground where kids can feel loved and nurtured no matter what their abilities, but not coddled to the point of ireedemable (and unjustified) narcissism. Pretty sure we haven’t reached it yet …

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      My world was filled with crappy participation awards, everyone being a winner and no one really caring that someone worked hard.

      Or those kids who got awards (I will say I got a few), were teased, bullied and somewhat envied, but mostly marginalized for doing well and being a nerd.

      There is definitely a line between abusing a child verbally and calling them names without the need for it, but we have gone to the other extreme where we’re scared to tell them that they’re not doing a good job & that they need to smarten up and work harder because they haven’t reached their potential.

      We’re so scared for their self-esteem and issues (body image for instance), that we don’t tell them the truth any more, and that’s what is the most painful for me to see.

  • Sarah Li Cain

    THANK YOU!!!! I’ve been trying to tell people that this for AGES. I remember when I started out teaching and we weren’t allowed to take off marks for late assignments. In fact, we had to accept assignments no matter how late they were handed in. The last school I was at didn’t fail kids. I had a student that wasn’t there for half the year and still passed! *shakes head*

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      My mother is a teacher and tells me horror stories about kids who don’t do jack squat in her class but expect 90%.

      Or that they don’t listen to the assignment, do something COMPLETELY WRONG and think that they worked pretty hard. It is beyond pathetic.

      Then their parents come in, raise a HUGE STINK and start threatening to sue the school and the education board because their kid didn’t get the grades that they expected “even though they worked really hard”.

      Honestly, we should use the Roald Dahl method of letting teachers tell the truth about the awful students in their class (read: Matilda).

      • Sarah Li Cain

        hahah…I’d love to do that in China, but I’m kind of in the private school sector and I cannot for the life of god make parents “lose face”. Now that I’m moving on as a freelance educator it’ll be even harder. Maybe I can spin my words somehow….

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