Life Lessons and Riding the School Bus

I read a very funny quote today from a comedian, Jenny Johnson, which she said

“If you rode the school bus as a kid, your parents hated you.”

It made me laugh out loud, for two reasons: 1. I rode the bus or walked or had to arrive at school an hour early because that was when my Dad was leaving and if I wanted a ride that was going to be it.  Nothing like sitting at school talking to the janitor because he was the only other person to arrive an hour before school started.  Luckily for me, he was nice enough to open the doors and not make me stand outside in the cold.  Lucky for my parents he wasn’t a pedophile! 2. My kids now make my wife and I feel like we must be the worst parents in the world in those rare occasions that they have to ride the bus.  I know I’m doing a disservice to my sons by giving them this ride – but I can’t stop it, it’s some American ideal that gets stuck in my head about making my kids life better than my life, and somehow I’ve justified that by giving them a ride to school their life is better than mine!

When I look back it, riding the bus did suck – you usually had to deal with those kids who parents truly did hate them.  Every bully in the world rode the bus – let’s face it their parents weren’t giving them a ride, so you had to deal with that (me being small and red-headed probably had to deal with it more than most).  You also got to learn most of life lessons on the bus – you found out about Santa before everyone else, you found out how babies got made before everyone else, you found out about that innocent kid stuff that makes kids, kids before you probably should have.  But let’s face it, the bus kids were tough – you had to get up earlier, stand out in the cold, get home later and take a beating after the ride home, just so you had something to look forward to the next day!

You know as HR Pros we tend also not to let our employees “ride the bus”.   We always look for an easier way for them to do their work, to balance their work and home, to do as little as possible to get the job done.  In a way, too many of us, are turning our organizations and our employees into the kids who had their Mom’s pick them up from school.  I’m not saying go be hard on your employees – but as a profession we might be better off to be a little less concerned with how comfortable everyone is, and a little more concerned with how well everybody is performing.

Too many HR Pros (and HR shops for that matter) tend to act as “parents” to the employees, not letting them learn from their mistakes, but trying to preempt every mistake before it’s made – either through extensive processes or overly done performance management systems.  We justify this by saying we are just “protecting” our organizations – but in the end we aren’t really making our employees or organizations “tougher” or preparing them to handle the hard times we all must face professionally.  It’ll be alright – they might not like it 100%, but in the end they’ll be better for it.

3 thoughts on “Life Lessons and Riding the School Bus

  1. Hey, Tim. Good post. I agree that business would be a lot better off by allowing mistakes and learning from them. There are endless success stories (3M is an obvious one and GE). I just want to add that I believe that it usually has to be a cultural thing in the business. It is very challenging for one good manager to go against the grain and promote real time learning on the job. He/she will be chastised rather than appreciated. Not saying it shouldn’t be done. I worked for a guy who did it well, but he was also influential enough that he was able to set up the culture within his team of about 200. In fact, he brought me in specifically to train the new hires on overall creativity and The Learning Model which deals with how we look at ‘failure’ and how we SHOULD be embracing it and learning from it, rather than running from it. So the expectation was set early on in the employees career to take chances and be creative. He even commissioned a Radiant Learning room where people could grab a book from the library, doodle, brainstorm, etc.

    Thanks for challenging the status quo!

  2. Wow! No wonder you got picked on—if you were talking about ideas that are unpopular or “politically incorrect” back then in the bus—-I think you are hinting at a topic that most managers, organizations and HR folks might want to ignore—the continuance of BabyBoomer parent behavior at work. I understand parents wanting their kids to have a better life experience than they did—-and I also think that guilt plays into the equation as well—-parents who are busy acquiring the trappings of success, working late, working two jobs, doing what it takes to amass college savings—-, provide cars for teenagers, expensive games, gadgets and phones, things that are sometimes a substitute for parental time with their kids——givng their kids so much more than they had, including the idea that “everyone is equal” means that everyone gets rewarded equally—–which is patently untrue. The “trophy kids” have been taught this idea to their detriment. So managers who attempt to continue this myth do a great injustice to their employees, in my opinion. Basically, I am saying I agree with your blog. Anyway, back to the bus. I walked to school. My next door neighbor went to the same school, one year behind. They would often pass me in their car on the way to school, and not offer me a ride. I didn’t have the option of taking the bus, because it wasn’t offered (which I guess was lucky for me). We only had one car, which my dad took to go to work, so walking or taking public transportation was just what we did. The neighborhood was safe, and not filled with the dangers for kids today. The walking was good for my health, bad for my overly wrought pageboy hairdo. I turned out to be slim, my neighbor who got the ride, is fat. Don’t know if there is a correlation or not.

  3. Tim –

    No doubt the bus is full of lessons for kids – good and bad, but a lot like life for sure….

    Do an experiment and make your kids ride the bus for a solid month. See if anyone get a knife drawn on them, etc. Great blog fodder, cause I know you need ideas for new posts….


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