We're All #1!

Achieving greatness isn't easy, but lowering your expectations sure helps. A look at the overpraised American.

The A-Team (click to hide/reveal content)

The A-Team

Percentage of Harvard students with B+ averages or better.

Rearrange—click and drag—the rows below so that the background image is complete.

Your score:
Puzzle completed: Genius! A+
Puzzle attempted but not completed: Brilliant effort! A
Puzzle not attempted: Your genius couldn't be bothered. A-
What does "click and drag" mean?: You're from the Old School! B+

  • 85% of parents think it's important to regularly tell their kids they're smart.

    1/3 of corporate executives say that they are reluctant to admit their mistakes.
    An analysis of 16,000 students' results on the Narcissistic Personality Profile concluded that undergrads are 30% more self-absorbed than they were in 1982.When researchers asked 400 fifth-graders to complete a puzzle, 90% of those praised for effort picked a harder puzzle next time. A majority of those praised for being smart chose easier ones.
  • Since the early '90s, 12th- graders' reading levels have dropped but their average GPA has gone from a B- to a B. Even after a campaign to curb grade inflation, 51% of the grades given at Harvard in the 2005 school year were A-'s or A's.After flubbing a question about Americans' geography skills in the August Miss Teen USA pageant, Miss South Carolina Lauren Upton told People that she'd give herself a B for geography and an A- for interview skills.
  • Commenting on kids who start kindergarten a year late so they'll perform better—a.k.a. "redshirting"—one San Francisco teacher says, "I've had children come into my classroom, and they've never even lost at Candy Land."New-age author Nancy Ann Tappe claims 98% of kids under 10 are "indigo children"—highly evolved, psychic beings with high self-esteem who rebel against school rules and expectations.Last March, a West Virginia high school sophomore sued the teacher who failed her for a late paper. She sought damages for "loss of enjoyment of life."
  • 2/3 of employees who'd prefer cash bonuses for good work don't receive them.For seven years, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey used an online pseudonym to plug his business. Sample post: "I like Mackey's haircut. I think he looks cute!"Before his bribery conviction, HealthSouth CEO "King Richard" Scrushy had a life-size bronze statue of himself erected at his company headquarters.
  • Buying an "oral mention" for a product on Martha Stewart Living costs $100,000. Asked about the deal, Stewart said, "I like to inform people about good things."The Idaho House of Representatives passed a resolution praising Napoleon Dynamite for "showcasing the positive aspects of Idaho's youth, rural culture, education system, athletics, economic prosperity and diversity."Efilmcritic.com named Maxim's Pete Hammond its "Peter Travers Quote Whore of the Year" for getting 69 of his gushing reviews cited in movie ads in 2006. Larry King, who called Steve Martin "incredible" in The Pink Panther, was a runner-up.
  • After being caught using a fake reviewer to rave about its films, Sony Pictures agreed to give $5 to anyone who'd seen A Knight's Tale or The Patriot.For George W. Bush's 51st birthday in 1997, then-Texas lottery chief Harriet Miers sent him a card with a puppy on it and the note, "You are the best Governor ever." President Bush received 31 standing ovations during his 2007 State of the Union address.
  • Standing ovations are now de rigueur on Broadway, even for flops, reports the New York Times.You can send yourself a "standing ovation" from the website of Playfair, a team-building consultant. It advises, "Don't worry about whether you've 'earned' it."Bob Nelson, the "guru of thank you," tells bosses to praise young workers who finally come to work on time. "You need to recognize improvement," he told the Wall Street Journal.
  • Last March, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association reportedly considered a ban on booing at high school sporting events.In anticipation of the 2008 Olympics, Beijing is cracking down on hecklers.There's a 2 in 5 chance that an athlete or team will hit a slump soon after appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, according to the magazine itself.
  • A company's stock price is more likely to drop after its CEO has been named in a business magazine's "best of" list. After Fortune named it one of the best companies to work for, a law firm commissioned a four-minute funk jam titled "Everyone's a Winner at Nixon Peabody."The International Society for Performance Improvement says that U.S. businesses spend $117 billion a year on special rewards for their employees.
  • The Container Store gives praise to one of its 4,000 employees every 20 seconds.The Texas-based Scooter Store's "celebrations assistant" goes through 25 lbs of confetti and up to 500 balloons a week honoring coworkers.Managers at the Bronson Healthcare Group in Kalamazoo, Michigan, must write at least 48 thank-you notes or "praise notes" to underlings annually.
  • The Incentive Marketing Association discourages employers from giving out bonuses because "cash has no lasting effect."Price of an engraved plaque reading, "You bring warmth to each of us with your glowing smile and radiant kindness, lighting the path to a joy-filled future" on Baudville.com: $49.95.Price of being told, "You help create a brighter future" by artist Tom Greaves' "The Compliment Machine," which offers random praise to passersby: free.