Book: You are Not Special

I came across a YouTube commencement speech titled, You’re Not Special given by english teacher, David McCullough, Jr. To my surprise it was an extremely insightful speech. He gave the point that there are millions and billions of us on earth and we think we are the center of the universe, but when we recognize that we aren’t special, we can finally see everyone is special. Our life isn’t just for our own satisfaction but for the good we can bring others.

Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. 

Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out. explore, find it yourself and grab hold with both hands. 

I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in anymore than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about. 

I came across the book when I was on vacation and knew it would teach me something new. One aspect of the book I didn’t realize and I should have because after all the book is written by a high school english teacher; it was full of new vocabulary words. I had to look up new words to understand the sentence. Each word was a new discovery. I knew I could use some of these words in my writing and speech. They would make cliché sound fresh!

The chapters took me forever to complete but with each page I was learning something new. I was learning about what its like to be a teacher, a parent, an encourager, and a mentor.

Day after day being a kid, being a person, is an exercise in trail and error. This is learning, which is growing, which is incremental evolution into a new person..

..enthusiasm matters most of all – for your students, for your subject, for the day ahead. 

The teachers I remember most, are the ones who I felt cared for me and who were passionate about the subject they taught. I enjoyed sitting there listening to them talk about their passion. I started to visit the school library during lunch after I saw my 10th grade teacher get excited over Catcher in the Rye.

Fulfillment will come only when you’ve achieved your own definition of success. 

You have to persevere through setbacks, through your own discriminations, trepidations and self-doubt, trying your best not just a matter of principle but as a leap of faith. Process matters wholly, and there are no shortcuts. When you encounter a limitation, work to push through it. When things don’t go your way, try again. In this way you prove yourself worthy- you prove it to yourself.

And so many more encouraging passages to quote from. I’ve been out of high school for 12 years and still an english teacher is teaching me something new. What a fresh perspective to read from. Thanks Mr. McCullough

Forever a Student


We live in a great time where we don’t have to go to a room to be a student. We are the generation raised by the Internet, its up to us how we use it. I recently started looking on youtube key words, “start up business” or “photography lighting” to learn from professionals. I want to use the knowledge given freely to learn more about the skills I want to develop. I’ve probably watched every Steve Jobs interview out there.

Creative is one great resources I discovered years ago. If you catch a live showing, the classes are free. They have workshops with professionals on all kinds of subjects. A course I’ve bought was from celebrity wedding photographer, Joe Buissink. Hearing how he developed his business and his photography style has been so helpful to me. There is no excuses when it comes to learning something new. I encourage you to find resources that can make you better at what you do and to keep on growing.

The Freedom to Blog

The past few months I’ve noticed the little details of my life. I can’t help but see how privileged I am..dinner with my family, laughing with Gus, working at The Rock, blogging in my blue room… I go to bed in peace and wake up in peace. Yet, I ask my self questions about life. Questions I ask not in disappointment or boredom but more of responsibility.

This morning I heard a report of a young Pakistan girl who has blogged about life for the BBC. The Taliban closed down her school, not allowing girls to study. At age 11, she started speaking publicly about the need for girls’ education. She was even rewarded the Pakistan’s first peace prize.
Her school was reopened, but on Tuesday the rebels found her and shot her. They saw this now 14 year old girl as a threat. They said she was preaching western ideas. Now she is in the hospital fighting for her life.

When hearing about Malala, I was reminded of what I read from Story by Robert Mckee about writing characters. He summed up humanity beautifully:

“…despite all the clear differences among people. the truth is we are all far more a like than we are different. We are all human. We all share the same crucial human experiences. Each of us is suffering and enjoying, dreaming and hoping for getting through our day with something of value. As a writer, you can be certain that everyone coming down the street towards you, each in his own way, is having the same fundamental human thoughts and feelings that you are…” Humanity isn’t a western idea but a human one.

Its strange to think of girls who are living in my generation with little or no freedom. She was shot for sharing her thoughts and now its clear how powerful one voice is. She is being heard all over the world. The Taliban’s goal was to destroy her message but instead spread the fire to others, her peers and now to us- who have taken their freedom for granted.

And now the question is, what will we do with our freedom?