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Nothing Special: the memoir

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Daniel's new book is the most revealing yet on his struggles with Specialness.
Nothing Special: the memoir

Join Daniel on a romp through a life of great expectations, high ideals, and of course, the reality of living in a world that doesn't think you're as wonderful as your parents or teachers did.  Learn finally and liberatingly (through 10 helpful exercises) the lesson that can help you be happier: when all is said and done, you're not that special.

First there was "From Homeless to Harvard," a moving story about overcoming huge obstacles to achieve one's dream.  Now comes the reverse! Stay tuned for more exerpts and listen to what the critic is already saying:

“I always thought he might become a Senator.  He was so verbal!’ – Mrs. Brobeck, Daniel’s 3rd grade teacher

Excerpt from "Nothing Special: the memoir"

People probably thought I was destined for great things. I was certainly reared in a family and school culture to think I was special. That, by the way, may be the single most damaging environment a child can be reared in. Truth be told, I had some real talents. I could draw anything, with shading, perspective, the works. It was one of those things that just came easily and I did it constantly. I was also an optimistic and hopeful kid. These two traits came together in the famous Redskins Poster incident of second grade (it comes later, really inspiring).

I was given love, support, encouragement, and opportunity—private schools, good wholesome meals, great friends, and HBO, back when it had the big silver letters that spun forward before each movie you’d see 20 times. None of this original programming crap. I was told I could be anything I wanted to be, so long as I worked at it—but above all, follow my dreams! I currently work as a tutor and barback, which is subordinate to the bartender, who does the hard math. Many people have never heard of the position. In fact, Microsoft word does not recognize it as an official word, and thus gives it the red squiggly line.

What would my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Siegel, say if she could see me now? I was one of the first kids to be taught borrowing in her class. I remember being part of a small, select group of 3 drippy-nose classmates, huddled around Mrs. Siegel’s desk. “I think you guys are ready to learn something special, because you’re so good at subtracting.” Oooh, “special” and “good at,” I loved those words!

The honest truth is that my parents had taught me borrowing at home. This early math boost got me into the advanced math class heading into second grade, which in turn kept me in the higher 3rd grade math class, and kept me among the top mathies--future engineers and M.I.T. software designers--as long as I could possibly hang in there. But I was terrible! Ask Wei-Ping Li, who taught me Calculus Freshman year at Yale. Actually, don’t ask Wei-Ping Li, he speaks no English. But if you point at me, Wei-Ping may shake his head sadly. Still, I wanted to prove I could do math! I wouldn’t drop out until the system finally said, “Son, the charade is over. You suck at math and no one is buying that you’re good at it just because you learned borrowing in 1st grade and hung around.” It was one of many times life would tell me, “You’re not that special,” though until recently, I couldn’t hear it.