Saturday , 19 August 2017

Accurate Self-Perception vs. Special Snowflake Syndrome

Special Snowflake SyndromeHave you ever heard of participation awards? The removal of the terms winners and losers from any competitive activity, even sports? The belief that everybody is special and destined for whatever it is they set their mind towards accomplishing? These are just a few of the shining examples in today’s world of the extensive coddling of the younger generations. A desire to instill in every child, teenager, and young adult a supreme level of irrational optimism about the opportunities that lie ahead. Although one can respect the underlying intention rooted in these practices, it has recently become quite obvious that this sort of behavior often winds up causing more harm than good. For the price of treating every child’s self-esteem as an eggshell skull, parents and educators have simultaneously shielded these same children from the bumps and bruises of real life. It is no surprise then that once these same children become young adults, many are painfully unprepared for the real world. They make choices detached from the types of factors considered by a rational thinker, and when things do not go as planned, things often get very ugly as the bubble bursts. This phenomenon has been coined Special Snowflake Syndrome: the belief that whatever the best result is for any course of action, you will persevere against all odds and achieve it because you are unique and nothing can stop your determination. As noble as this type of life outlook may be, it is often not grounded in reality because the snowflake never engages in an honest self-reflection about the skills they may or may not have and never engages in any type of cost-benefit analysis related to the actions that are contemplated. As a result, often times these same individuals wind up in positions that are far worse than the alternatives they could have pursued had they put some real and honest thought into their decisions. Because you cannot turn back time, regret fills the air. The good news, however, is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Changing your perspective can help prevent a negative outcome from occurring in the first place.

Let’s start with the obvious: although your parents may not have told you this, life isn’t fair. Unlike those participation awards that make everybody feel all fuzzy and warm inside for no real reason at all, participating in life is not something that deserves praise. In fact, it is a struggle for anybody who is not well-connected. Your chances of failing at most things in life are much greater than your chances of succeeding. If they weren’t, whatever it is that is worthy of pursuit would lose its value because it would be immediately saturated. This naturally means that there are consequences to your actions because not everybody will achieve the desired result. Failing to account for the consequences of your actions will bring you back to where you started, at best, or even worse, place you in a much worse position. This is why it is an absolute necessity that you conduct two very important analysis before making any serious life decision: a self-perception assessment and a cost-benefit analysis.

Accurate Self-Perception

Before you decide on any important decision, you have to take a step back and try to assess yourself from an objective standpoint. In other words, try to honestly and accurately identify your strengths and weaknesses as an individual. This means taking a real good look at your current skill set, your motivation levels, your real work ethic, and your overall drive and determination to get something done. Now, be careful. Although past performance does not guarantee future results, you need to be honest with yourself and consider your past experiences as at least a solid indicator of your future performance. This means you cannot attribute to future self a skill set or level of work ethic that you have never before experienced. It is just unlikely for an extreme turnaround to occur. When conducting this self-assessment, you should have every incentive to be honest with yourself because achieving accuracy is the key to deciding what is right for you going forward. Do not kid yourself, inflate your own ego, or overestimate your abilities. This can only hurt you. For example, for those considering law school, understanding if you have the traits that are often found in successful lawyers is a good start. Some people are good writers, others have trouble forming proper sentences. There’s nothing wrong with admitting a weakness. You can always try and work on strengthening your weaknesses, but the important part is identifying them and understanding your true potential if you want to truly make the right decision. To some this may seem blasphemous, especially to the snowflakes. “Who are you to limit me and my dreams?” is a standard response. The reality is simple. Nobody is telling you that you cannot follow your dreams, instead, what you’re being told is that you need to take a real hard look at your own capabilities before you truly find the dream worth pursuing. You cannot understand how to succeed at something else without first succeeding at understanding yourself.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Once you have a relatively accurate understanding of your own capabilities, you need to engage in cost-benefit analysis before making your decision. There is nothing worse than simply downplaying or outright ignoring the consequences of any given action because you want to believe only the benefits will flow to you as a result of the undertaking. Almost every action has potential costs and benefits. You must understand these costs as well as you understand the benefits. Some may have heard of the popular phrase: “Hope for the best, Prepare for the worst.” Applying this maxim is bulletproof. However, you cannot apply it without first understanding both sides of the coin. Special snowflakes often discount the potential consequences of any given action, regardless of their statistical probability, simply because they believe they are so unique and special that they are destined for only the best scenario as long as they put their mind to the task. Even a cautious snowflaker, as rare as they may be, will still believe that in the off chance the best scenario is somehow not reached, the “bad result” is out of the realm of possibility because it is reserved for “those others.” You know, there’s always those. They know who they are, those people. The point is, snowflakes follow the “it can never be me” ideology. Do not fall into this line of thinking. It is reckless endangerment of your own future prospects.

The Law School Example

Applying to and attending law school is a great example of how Special Snowflake Syndrome may wind up causing severe problems. Each year, countless incoming 1Ls believe that they will academically rock law school. Having experienced nothing of the sort prior to their attendance, they somehow imagine that they will be at the top of their class when the grades are released. Ignoring how the law school curve works, many simply assume they will be Top 33% or Top 10% just because they had a solid GPA in college or because they will apply themselves extra hard for law school. Some, as outlandish as it sounds, actually attend lower ranked law schools because they hold the belief they will achieve the type of grades necessary to transfer after 1L to a much higher ranked law school. They believe this before even attending one day of law school. How can this type of unsubstantiated certainty even exist? As for employment opportunities, even if the law school has a 50/50 employment rate, it is quite obvious they will be in the right 50% with legal employment upon graduation because they know how to hustle. Even worse, if 5% of the law students receive big law offers, they often are willing to take out six-figure student loan amounts for the opportunity. They just know they will be in that top 5%. Here’s the problem:

First, no incoming 1L fully understands how law school exams work. They are nothing like undergrad exams. Even if you do extensive research on the subject ahead of enrollment, you still have to account for the chance that you will not do as well as you think you will come exam time. This brings up the second point: the 1L law school curve is a mandatory curve that pitches classmates against each other and leaves most law students in the middle of the class. This means that your exam is only great if it beats out the vast majority of your classmates. The problem with this is that unless you chose a lower ranked school due to a large scholarship, all of your classmates will have similar GPA and LSAT scores. Therefore, you cannot predict where you will wind up on the curve. Your best bet is to assume median wherever you wind up attending (even at the lower ranked school as LSAT performance is not exactly bulletproof evidence of law school success). As for legal employment, grades are only a part of the equation, even at grade-sensitive 2L OCI. Without a convincing story backed by past experience, great grades, a set of real career goals upon enrollment, and solid social skills, your chance of landing big law at any school outside of Harvard, Yale, or Stanford are far from certain. Even for all the other potential legal positions, there are too many factors at play, including many of the above listed factors, for you to blindly attend law school equipped with only your determination to succeed. This is compounded massively for those financing law school with student loans, those loans will need to be paid after graduation. Therefore, they are integral to a proper cost-benefit analysis if they are part of the equation. Failure to account for all of these risks places you at risk for a multitude of negative outcomes, one of which is unemployment and/or insurmountable student loan debt upon graduation. Although nothing is ever certain, you can limit the risk of a negative outcome with the proper cost-benefit analysis if you have decided on attending law school.

The real takeaway here, for those contemplating law school or any other significant endeavor, is to drop the irrational optimism angle as soon as possible. Do not suffer from Special Snowflake Syndrome. You are not special, and you are not unique. You are simply you, with certain strengths and weaknesses that you need to identify through an honest self-perception assessment. Once you understand yourself, you can weigh the risks of undertaking any particular life decision with more confidence as you engage in the decision’s particular cost-benefit analysis. Life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean you can’t place yourself in a position to succeed. All it means is that you cannot blindly fill your heart with desires that have no basis in reality. To use careers as an example, not every field is meant for every person. Some people have the knack to become doctors, some people have the knack to become lawyers, and some have the knack to become teachers. Some simply don’t have the knack for academics, and are better served pursuing the trades. The quicker you become honest with yourself and accept and pursue your strengths while working on your weaknesses, the better off your future prospects will become. Do not get suckered into or remain in the snowflake lane. At some point, the bubble will burst for those resistant to change. When it does, you will not be one of the unlucky ones.

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