On the No Zero Policy in schools and the future effects in the workplace

I have never been an Einstein but my school grades always fluctuated from 60% to top of the class… from one month to the other.

My university years were a simple translation of my early life.Through my first and second degrees I worked full time, missed many, maaany classes, studied French and even took 9 months off to do the, then mandatory, military service. The only course I completed with a +90% attendance was my postgraduate course, which I did between the two degrees.

I was lucky enough to get a BCA grant to finish my second degree in Los Angeles, CA, and there I found out that I could have a broken English, take 50% more classes per term than the average student, work on campus the maximum 20h, join the swimming team and disappear in the desert the rest of the time and still get straight As at the business school.

The fact that I could move from one year to the next in Spain without much effort and some of my classmates who fed me class notes and attended uni full time, was surprising for me. Fair enough, I didn’t get stellar grades, but some of my classmates had to repeat courses.

When I got to California, I was surprised of how low the level was, how little was needed to get best grades (let alone pass) and how good and bad students got warm words regardless their performance.

Fast forward 8 years. Florida seems to have cracked the motivational paradise (or hell?) with their “no zero policy”. They have decided that it seems like punishment to give a zero to a child even if that child never showed up for class. Great training for life! I missed many many classes in my university life, but I can tell you a) I was working full time and b) I would take my work holidays the week before the exams (hence, no holidays at all at the end of the year… for years) and pushed to make up for 4 months of non-attendance.

Let’s not get into the mastering of mother tongues, but who hasn’t heard of kids sports where winners and losers get a trophy? In my boyhood I use to get a bronze medal or just a coloured ribbon if I didn’t make it the podium. This sense of moving people through rewarding them for something they haven’t done actually well is a very dangerous game. Doesn’t a trophy imply some level of success that exceeds those around us? If we just flatten the playing field so that nobody wins and nobody loses, we are talking of an economic model where I don’t think I can fit in.

It is not that I want everybody to lose, but when I decided to work and skip classes I knew the risks of doing so, and I took the risk, there must be a reward for doing better than the rest.

Life does NOT work like this.

What Florida is turning into policy, the rest of the Western world (or at least the countries where I have lived Spain, USA, and UK) has been quietly accepting in their schools and universities.

Dan Miller gave a really good example of why it is wrong to follow this “no zero policy”:

Let’s say that we are watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon and we see a little crack there and two hours have passed and it’s trying to get out.

We think “I am going to try it to get out, we are going to help it out, it’s worked really hard, it’s done half the work, let’s just reward it and help it finish the task”. So we get the scissors and we cut the cocoon open and the butterfly is now free. Or is it? Instead of having the blood pump up into the wings, we’ve got this little bulbous misfit of some kind that never develops into anything. We have shortcut  the process that it was designed to go through to really become a beautiful butterfly.

What else needs to be said? What are we creating (or already created)? Imagine a workforce signing for 40-hour weeks, not showing up and demanding 30 pay. Imagine.


* Post inspired and quotations from Dan Miller’s weekly podcast “48 Days to the Work you Love


On why I think Twitter, Facebook and other so called social sites are not for me

Am I opposed to Twitter? I love things that new technology does, the other night in Top Gear (of all places!) I discovered an iPhone app called Grindr where logged-on gay people can track where other logged-on guys are (and how close, thanks to master Twit Stephen Fry). But I have chosen not to be involved in Facebook and specially Twitter because I can’t fit it in in my life.

A couple of weeks ago I dislocated the right clavicle from the sternum (don’t ask) and ended up two weeks at home with the arm on a sling. It was a good time to take some unexpected time off and I decided to streamline my life.

Due to privacy issues, I was never a fan of social sites (probably that’s why I write this blog under a pseudonym). I’ve decided that one of the principles I am going to be running my life is that if I am going to add something, I have to decide what I am going to stop doing. So if I am going to add the time required to sending and receiving Twitter then I have to decide what I am going to stop doing. I have not been able to identify anything that I consider less important than Twitter, so it just simply didn’t make the cut.

Now, if you use Twitter and use it effectively [Pingol, do you?] fantastic. But there are a lot of things that I categorise like that where I decided not to do those simply because I don’t want to add something more to my plate and I can’t find something that I reasonably want to unplug.


On Du-BAN-i, the new Gulf Emirate formerly known as Dubai. The party is over

Can’t stay away from the news these days, can you? A friend sends me a message forwarded to her from Dubai. She looked into moving down there as a Retail Manager for a fashion house down there, but the conditions where apocalyptic, lucky enough she had her father’s employer’s legal department have a closer look to the contract and decided to pull out at the last minute.


However, a staff member of hers at the time, decided to go easy and move from Supervisor in London to Store Manager in Dubai. Apparently it has been a gross mistake, they pay in advance your rent and utility bills, flights in business class to Paris for training that are great to make your friends back home envious, but if you decide to quit before the 12/18 month contract expires, you have to pay everything back, or face imprisonment. She calls UK in tears every night. She could just go, but her family lives in Doha, and that would ban her of ever going back to the Gulf.

At least, my Italian friend pulled out when she was told she had to surrender her passport until the end of the contract, literally living in a sand and sun prison.

Continue reading

On life’s realities and ego highs, the wrong approach to business is the common approach to business

Hobbes, a couple of weeks ago I told you of the team they were assembling at the retail company I work part-time at. It looked like a great idea to me, retail is in crisis and getting together different people from different walks of the company seemed like to smart and right thing to do.

But guess what? Woolworths went under, then MFI, sales are being brought forward left and right, retail outlets are losing appeal because why would anyone buy last season’s items at a 40% discount if you can get this season’s with 50% off on the High St?

Continue reading