There are some things you don’t learn in school. You learn them by experience. Growing up, we called these things “the school of hard knocks.” Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, spoke to a group of high school seniors a few years back.  He spoke about reality in life. My life is very different from that of the richest man in the world, but I share some of his beliefs about life.

Mr. Gates talked about how “feel good, politically correct” teachings have created a generation of kids with no concept of reality. And he talked about how this concept sets them up for failure in the real world. If you are a parent or a grandparent, it is important to understand how different the world is today for youngsters. He spoke about this and how important it is to realize the way television has changed all our lives, and even more so, with the new reality shows.  But television is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shops and go to work. In real life, people really do die when they get shot.

Mr. Gates went on to talk about how many schools have done away with winners and losers. But life has not. An example of this was when my grandchild rushed into my living room with four ribbons she had won at a recent swim meet. She had finished last in every race, but there were no losers. “Look what I won, Granddaddy!” she shouted. Little does she understand that this doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. In real life, there are winners and losers. And even though you many not be corrected, two and two does not equal five.

Listen to what this richest man in the world has to say about getting ahead in life. “You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school. And you won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both. And if you think your teacher was tough, wait until you get a boss.” If you want to be successful, remember this:  successful people learn to accept responsibility. If you mess up, it’s not someone else’s fault. So don’t whine about your mistakes; learn from them. Learn that life is not always fair, so get used to it.

Mr. Gates went on to talk about self-esteem. “It’s great to feel good about yourself,” he said. “But in reality, the world doesn’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. You may feel that flipping burgers is beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity.”

Although this message was delivered to a group of high school students, I believe it is a message about the generation gap that is so hard to understand. Bill Gates was considered by many to be a nerd when he attended school. And whether you love him or hate him, or even know him, you have to believe he is right on target with this message. His final word of advice to all those who will listen: “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you will end up working for one.”


George Lusby is the former Scott County judge-executive. “The Best of Crawfish and Minnows,” is available at the News-Graphic office.

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