11 Truths You Didn’t Learn in High School!

Posted May 27, 2008 by

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This speech, also known as “The Eleven Rules of Life,” has been widely attributed to Bill Gates, but it’s actually part of educator Charles Sykes book, Dumbing Down our Kids. We’re posting it again here during this season of high school and college graduations.

Life is not fair – get used to it.

The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world
will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel
good about yourself.

You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out
of high school. You won’t be a vice president with fancy car* until you earn both.

If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a
boss. He doesn’t have tenure.

Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your
grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping.
They called it Opportunity.

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

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 are. So before you save the rain forest
from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try
delousing the closet in your own room.

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.

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.

Television is NOT real life. In real life people
actually go to jobs.

(And my favorite)

Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for



Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Kelly (Edit) Report

    I like those rules and the newer ones would be great to know as well. I think I might post them in my brother’s room! The thing that most teens don’t say is : It’s my fault, and if more people were able to say that, that would help themselves and everyone else out…

  2. Lana Hodgdon (Edit) Report

    Your newsletter is a godsend. Just when you think you are the only parent with teen issues, you discuss what I am going through..

  3. Cindy T (Edit) Report

    This is the approach I use with my kids. I believe in being real and open with my kids and I can only hope that the brutal truths about life will come as no surprise when they hit adulthood.

  4. Bill G (Edit) Report

    This seems to fly in the face of the recently touted millennium generation reality. Where feeling good trumps actually accomplishing something good. Where effort and acheivment are disconnected and the responsibilty of living up to a god (oops used the G word)given talent is considered being mean. If we don’t turn this philosophy around and return to thousands of years of proven behavior and responsibiolity moreas, those that proported this will end up saying “who is responsible for this mess, certianly not me!”

  5. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    John, You’re right! this list came out back in 1996! Ancient history.:) Charles Sykes has written another book, called “50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School”. Might be worth looking at (and I’m sure he updated the car phone reference.)

  6. Jack (Edit) Report

    Thanks for publishing this list. I saw this a couple years ago and I’ve been looking for it every since. I’m going to print it out and give it to my son.



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