When a D+ is (Sometimes) Okay

We’ve all heard about how millennials have been raised by “helicopter parents,” who hover over them and protect them from criticism and disappointment. The result is a “teacup” generation of young people who may appear outwardly perfect, but are easily shattered. For years, they have regularly been given pats on the back, often just for showing up. They made it to the end of the soccer season – fantastic, everyone gets a trophy! They took a test – how amazing! When they finally join the workforce, it’s no wonder members of Gen Y expect a promotion just for being on time to work for six weeks straight.

How to raise a wimp? Do lots of this.

Sheltered from critique and failure, members of this generation ooze unearned confidence at the office, as many older co-workers and managers attest. The terms “self-involved” and “overly praised” are often used to describe Gen Y.

But their confidence may not be as deeply engrained as it first appears. When asked whether they need to build their strengths or fix their weaknesses to succeed professionally, 73% of Gen Y respondents choose to focus on their weaknesses — a higher proportion than older generations.

This commentary from my hero Marcus Buckingham about bad parenting (I especially like the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality that is absolutely ruining little kids) is so great I cut and pasted it from this article in Time Moneyland. Please read the entire article for some great knowledge from this brilliant leadership strategist.

To his point – focusing on weakness is a disaster strategy. Focusing on strengths is the recipe for greatness.

I hate managing money. I hate paying bills. Hate hate hate. It’s one of the most miserable things in this life I can imagine. I hate budgeting, analyzing…anything in this category. It’s my biggest flaw, my most incredible weakness.

But I have to pay my bills, or life becomes a large hot mess. Since I have to do it, I frequently wait until the final seconds before something is due to pay it. I have to do it right then, or trouble will follow. The pressure of time forces me to sit down and knock it out.

This is how I minimize my weakness. I’m not taking classes on budgeting. I will never get better at this. I need to merely manage this task, and then take the rest of the month off.

I focus on the things I have strengths with; counseling, career planning, pedagogy. This is the stuff that fuels my being –  the stuff I love and the stuff I’m both competent with.

Parents always fuss over the C’s and D’s. They ought to be throwing parties for A’s, celebrating the student’s strength, then strategizing how to minimize the damage that poor math grade can do to the GPA when college admissions time rolls around.

What strengths do to your brain…


Or maybe the kid not only hates math, but is awful at it.  Maybe they should concentrate on studies and activities that draw on the subjects they excel at (and love) and let ’em get a D in math?

You can only raise your game on weaknesses so much. Your strengths are the jobs and tasks that turn on the lights inside your melon. You don’t need to be pushed or motivated. You want to do it.


We all have to do things we don’t like. This is called Life. Better though to focus on the good and shelve the not-so-g0od as often as possible.


John Scott is the career services manager, national online learning coordinator and a media history instructor at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University, San Francisco. He also counsels clients and groups on the art of reinvention. His debut book Broken Glass and Barbed Wire will be released soon. Follow John on Twitter @johnscottsf.

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