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Geeks Rule, and Here's Why

Monday, May 9, 2011

"...social exclusion as a teenager can be one of the best indicators of future success."

Can I get an "amen?!"

That quote is by Alexandra Robbins, a self-described "dork," talking about her new book, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School.

She goes on to say, "Popular students are more likely to be involved in aggression (whether physical or alternative - gossip, rumors, backstabbing, etc.), both as targets and aggressors," and actually encourages parents to discourage their children from joining the "popular crowd." Kids should instead be encouraged to do the things they love - especially outside of school - so that they can meet others with similar interests. Because, hey, get this! It turns out the very personality traits that get you ridiculed in school are the ones that will make you extremely successful out of it.

Now, while I doubt this surprises any of us grown-up geeks, it's still nice to offer the next generation [smirk] a new hope. [double smirk] It also may help comfort and inspire parents raising little geeklings of their own to know that theirs are the kids who really will be coming out on top.

Read the rest of the article (which I highly recommend) here. (found via @kiala and Jezebel) I'll be putting Robbin's book on my to-read list.


So tell me, fellow grown-up geeks: have you found that you and your outsider friends from school are more successful now than the "popular" kids? Personally, I've never made much effort to check in on my former classmates (I avoid reunions and have only a handful of FB friends from school), but I firmly believe my outsider experiences led directly to my career successes. How about you?

Posted by Jen at 2:04 PM Labels:

76 comments:

  1. My friends who followed what they loved (no matter how geeky) were the ones that have been happy and successful in the ten years since high school graduation. Huzzah for geekdom! :)

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  2. This is so awesome. Thanks for sharing! I was teased a whole hell of a lot during high school (and even elementary school!) and was a total outsider. Now I'm an independent and successful woman working in a job I'm good at, and that I love.

    I would definitely classify myself as being one of the more successful ones from my high school graduating class. I come from a small town, and every time I go back to visit my parents on holidays, I'll often run into a few of them (all formerly popular people), working at dead-end minimum wage jobs. It's kinda sad, but it definitely makes me feel fabulous about my life.

    Life sucked then, but now that I'm an adult and have accepted who I am, I'm SO much happier and fulfilled. I just wish I'd known back then how awesome life would be just a few years down the road from high school. :)

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  3. I love that! It's so true.
    Here's to being a weirdie!! *raises goblet*
    -Ellie

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  4. Let me put it this way, because I was an outsider in school, I had no trouble doing Running Start and taking classes at my local community college while in high school, only returning to the HS for my bi-monthly Sci-fi Fantasy Club meetings (oh yes, we were that cool). And I wrote my final research paper for High school on Harry Potter and Literacy.

    Now, two years after graduating high school, I'm graduating from my university with a Bachelor's degree (in English, but it'll still help. Probably) before I can legally drink in the states. Plus, I never had all the backstabbing that seems to happen with friends in high school. Maybe there's something to this magical Kool-Aid of being a geek.

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  5. I'm not successful but I'm content. I'm not a high-flyer but I'm happy. I'm not rich but I'm secure about who I am. I was a total weird kid, but I'm totally accepted. I want this book! X

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  6. A lot of the girls I went to school with who were in the "popular" crowds then are now doing jobs they hate and living for the weekend when they get drunk...

    At 25, I'm married, have bought a house, have a job I love and lots of great friends. I was Little Miss Outsider at school, but I think she's right-doing what I've loved means I'm now doing what I love and getting paid for it. :D

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  7. I've got to print this out for my 12 year old daughter. Although I could have done with a little less teasing, all in all, I'm thankful high school sucked. My good friends from that time are a great success in life. Those cheerleader/jock types married each other, still live in our small town, and even hang out with each other. How boring would life be if I never evolved beyond 17!

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  8. I'm 19 and about to start university, but I've certainly noticed that as I've gotten older things have become easier. :)

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  9. Well, we'll see. I haven't gotten a job yet, but I haven't truly graduated yet. Once I get that little piece of paper, we'll see how it goes.

    I am pretty sure I am happier than most of my high school classmates though... They all jumped into relationships/careers/kids, and they weren't ready for them.

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  10. I went to an art school (Design and Architecture Senior High in Miami- best school ever) and was voted "Weirdest" which really says something. I was fairly popular, but not in the popular crowd, and they are all famous architects and designers now and I write a blarg with llamas, so... I think the rules are backwards in art schools. Just because, to be a successful artist, you have to be outgoing and chatty, and I will happily give people piggy back rides, but I don't particularly want to talk to anyone.

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  11. Awesome! I was an outsider more in middle school than high school (I found a small circle of geek friends to hang out with in HS), but definitely wasn't one of the popular ones.

    Now, I'm 25, with a BS and a BA, 3 years into a PhD (Neuroscience!), own a house, and am engaged to be married next year.

    I can't say the popular kids are total failures, but I know I'm successful in what I feel is important, and very happy to have found a partner that doesn't think going to parties and painting the town red is required for happiness.

    School is painful, but articles like this make it easier to get through the dumb stuff and know it'll get better before you know it.

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  12. HELL TO THE YES. That is all.

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  13. I definitely agree with this. I think that Billy Joel, of all people, actually described this situation quite well when he was talking about his song, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." Brenda and Eddie, the kids described in the song, basically "peaked too early." They were the pinnacle of the social order in high school. However, without realizing it, they were also at the pinnacle of their own lives. (It's worth listening to him describe it himself. It's on Disc 4 of the Billy Joel Complete Hits collection.

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  14. I have somehow gotten roped into helping with our 20 year high school reunion this year. It's 6 girls from the "in crowd" and me and one of my geeky friends from high school.
    He and I are amazed that they have never seemed to leave high school behind. They actually want to have our reunion at our high school football game.
    It took a while to figure it out, but this was the last place these girls were in charge, the last time they were "someone" in their minds.
    Me and my geeks have gone on to successful careers (a chef, a police officer, a medical director, etc), and these guys are working in dead end jobs, and are just miserable. 14 divorces between the 6 of them (no joke), whereas I've been married to the same guy for 15 years and my fellow geek has been in relationship with the same guy for 13 years.
    My geeky friend and I were so put out by the reunion plans that we are planning our own "Renegade Reunion". Geeks only, thank you!

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  15. I loved having activities outside of high school--it was very empowering--I got to do things I really enjoyed and didn't have to worry about the social hierarchy inherent in any high school extra curricular activities.

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  16. Back in high school, my debate team wore shirts that all said "Today they call us geeks, tomorrow they'll call us boss". Now we can say that science supports this! FTW! Also, I'd have to say that this theory of geekiness resulting in 'success' has one variable that must be carefully considered - how many hours per week does the geek play WoW? :-)

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  17. Maybe my school was different but a lot of the "cool kids" were also pretty nice and easy going people while also being driven and smart. Many of them are just as, if not more successful than the outsiders (I was sometimes in this group but really tended to fly under the radar more.) But we had a very small class (about 170 kids in our graduating class) so maybe things work out different in smaller groups.

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  18. Well I don't know how sucessfull I am but I'm happy so I call that pretty good.

    This is going to sound a little catty but, the HS peers I still hear about it would appear that most the ones who were "popular" have crashed and burned in one way or another.

    I think it's sad when people say HS was the best years of their lives. It would suck to peak at 17 then have to live another 60 years wanting to recapture that.

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  19. I heard about this on the radio this morning. While I don't know if I'm necessarily more successful, I believe I am happier than most of my "popular" peers at this stage of the game.

    This is perfect for my middle school daughter, however. She's struggling to be her creative, quirky self in the midst of those who would advocate for her to be a sheeple. I (and her teachers, thank goodness) keep telling her that the things she gets tortured and bullied for now will be the very things that she will be celebrated for as an adult. This will help her hold on for a few more years (I hope).

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  20. I'm not *really* an adult yet, but I have noticed that the kids who got picked on and were pretty strange in gradeschool and on up are the most interesting people in college. In all good colleges, the students are all geeks, so we have a lot more fun now than we did when we were among our geographical peers.

    I have noticed that those who were "popular" in high school tend to stick around it. They don't want to get too far away from their kingdom, whereas I know that the kids who didn't feel comfortable there tend to go to the four winds.

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  21. I was a band nerd in high school, and I consider myself to be a full-fledged nerd today. I also know that I was very successful in the workplace, as my husband is now. I am happy in my life and feel no need to find a way to "fit in".

    However.

    As far as I can tell, this book offers up nothing more than anecdotal evidence and is riding a surge of the (ironic) popularity of geekdom in general. For every story of famous/successful nerds that this author can offer up, there is a similar story of a famous/successful former popular kid.

    How many times have we read the articles and stories about famous and successful people who were cheerleaders, prom queens, homecoming kings and voted Most Likely to Succeed? I'm sure there are as many former jocks sitting at the head of the table in board rooms as there are computer nerds.

    People who are able to grow up, overcome the juvenile tendencies of their youth and come to respect themselves and others are going to be successful and well-liked, regardless of what lunch table they sat at when they were sixteen.

    Now, that's not to say that I think this book isn't worth our time. It is. Anything that encourages kids and teens to be confident in their own skin gets put in the "win" column, in my opinion. Anything that reminds us that superficial personality traits and outward appearances are not the substance of our lives is also a good thing.

    I just don't know how seriously we can really take this. Fun, interesting and semi-useful, YES. Scientifically backed and the basis for proving a point in any way... not so much.

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  22. I've certainly found this to be true for me. I was not in the popular crowds in the past. I am now about to graduate with a masters in a little-known field and have had several job offers.

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  23. My husband and I went to the same high school. He is two years older than me. We were both geeks and each had our own group of geek friends. (Long story short we dated and married years later). But anyhoo...we did go to his 10yr reunion and one of the popular girls from my class was trolling for a date at his reunion. She had continued her career as a cheerleader with the local basketball team and was making ends meet waiting tables at Hooters. I already knew I was happy with my life but boy did I learn that night that I apparently hadn't missed anything by not being popular.

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  24. I'm fatter! It's not fair damn it! At least my soul isn't black. :)

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  25. @ Lynn - I like how you phrased that: "How boring if I never..evolved beyond 17." So true! If you're the exact same person now that you were at that age...sad. AND boring. ;)

    @ Bill - John's a big Billy Joel fan, so I've heard that song many times! And you're right; it's a perfect complement to this article.

    @ Emily - you and a few others here make an excellent point about folks not wanting to leave their glory days at HS. That could explain why so many stay in the same town for life, whereas, as Mandee pointed out, the rest of us leave for bluer horizons.

    @ Gina - point well made and taken! Some extroverts manage to be both popular *and* successful later in life, largely because success so often hinges on excellent people skills. Or, like you said, people can grow and change. I think it's just about developing those character traits necessary for success and happiness in the outside world, and perhaps those of us who went through school *already* feeling like outsiders got a jump start on that.

    That said, I look forward to reading the book and making a more informed judgment then.

    Thanks for the great conversation fodder, guys! Keep 'em coming!

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  26. OK, I'll show my age and say that my high school class only just tracked me down for our 30th (!) reunion. I think a family member turned me in. I never gave them any information to find me because I was a geek and I never wanted to go back to see most of those people.

    I have gone to my hubby's reunions though and you can definitely tell the geeks from the popular kids. The popular kids all seem to have gotten married early (pregnant right out of HS or in HS) and the geeks all had great careers and have always seemed a lot happier. The popular crowd just seems to have aged faster.

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  27. @ Bill:
    I THOUGHT EXACTLY THE SAME THING !!!! THAT'S WEIRD

    As one who has not graduated from High School, or Middle School for that matter, I can't weigh in on the second part of the discussion. But I do know this: We don't have lives, so we focus on the stupid stuff. I go to a private all girls school with a boatload of homework every night. So I don't actually know any guys. All of my friends have never kissed a guy, and only a few have been on dates. There really isn't much to do other than homework in this environment, so when we talk, we talk about other people. This gossiping develops into jealousy. And that's why people start mimicking other people.
    Another thing that i've been thinking about lately is why people are "popular." I read a book where a boy is described as "naturally popular, like having a rule book that told him what to do." I feel like some people just have a sixth sense, like when to put in a "that's what she said" joke, or how to balance put downs, stupidity, and jokes so that you seem better than everybody else.
    My school is a little weird, as everyone is basically smart, it being a private school. Even the one druggie/slut puts in a smart answer from time to time. Also, because almost all of the less... academically proficient, and popularity keen people are leaving this year, our class is going to be mostly us nerdy, grade averaging, all night studying people.

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  28. Honestly, it might just be because I go to a school called "Academy for Math, Engineering, and Science" AKA total geek school, but it seems to me that these days geeks are held in some respect. If there were a "popular crowd" at my school, it would be a group of geeks, but even in more mainstream culture, it seems to me that "geek" is considered more of a compliment than an insult these days.
    My only really serious experiences with bullying were in elementary school (little kids are MEAN in droves). With all that behind me now, I think I can actually look back and say that that experience probably has made me a more successful teenager...

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  29. I can't say I've had a great deal of successes outside of high school, but I can thoroughly say that several of the other "outsiders" and I are still in touch with each other, still trying to out-geek each other, and still just as happy and nerdy as we were then. And still excellent friends. Something that's lasted this long has GOT to be a good thing.

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  30. I have to disagree. It bugs me to hear generalizations about any group of people, "popular" or not. To argue that popular kids "are more likely to be involved in aggression..." and unpopular kids are more likely to be "successful" simply legitimizes the artificial division between the two groups.

    Passion, people skills, and a whole gamut of things, like luck, make someone successful, and I believe that geeks and non-geeks are just as likely to have these attributes

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  31. Perhaps not more successful, but much happier having put more emphasis on who I am and not how I appeared to other people. I teach elementary school and love the ones who when asked what they want to be when they grow up respond "I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you." They are also just as happy when I say that a spy sounds like an interesting choice. Oh 7 year old geeks. Love it.

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  32. My husband and I were both geeks and we are raising 3 little geeklings. I was shuned but not teased. I loved high school, my husband hated it. I had a small set of close friends that I still keep in touch with. We were all geeks and we were ok with it. I hope my kids will have enough self-worth to know not ot change themselves for others.

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  33. Eh, I dunno about this one. I was a geek all through childhood and high school, and I'm not particularly successful. Most of the folks from my school who are successful were not geeks.

    Having said that, I'm happy with my life. I don't think geekiness is by any means a predictor of success, but it may well be a predictor of happiness.

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  34. Well....I suppose it depends on how one defines "succesful". I'm a year and a few days out of college and just landed a part-time gig in my field (Journalism, tough industry nowadays, esp. in my area)but I have to say I enjoyed myself more in college than highschool.

    I wasn't picked on (being in chorus had its perks)per say, rather I was pretty much ignored.

    Except for some jerk throwing a tennis racket at me in the hallway, which broke my glasses. Try explaining THAT to your science teacher.

    Back on track...yeah, I was weird then, and I super-duper weird now. And I'm more ok with myself today, than I was back then. And found some good friends who are simlar to myself.

    I suppose the saying "The best revenge is a life well-lived" applies to us. It doesn't really matter how much money or material goods that you have, it is how you live your life and how happy you are with it.

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  35. I was just thinking this while watching a Pixar documentary. Here were these guys talking garbly computer geek talk (the stuff that would have had them stuffed in a locker!) and they are actually staggeringly amazing for re-inventing animation! Who would have thought?!? Love it ...

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  36. I will admit that my salary does not hold up to some of those popular kids; however, when I see them, they don' t look happy. However, my a game designer husband and I (an adjunct English teacher) have wonderful adventures and spend many an hour in geek-ful bliss. I wouldn't trade those moments for a big pay check any day! I think that is is important that you don't measure you success in dollars, but in moments of happiness.

    (Sorry, off the soap box!)

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  37. I don't know that this can be something generalized, personally. Maybe the percentage of 'outsiders' succeeding later is bigger than the 'popular kids'. But, sadly, I still know plenty of guys who were outsiders in highschool and, ten years later, play warhammer after getting home from their retail jobs in gas stations or fast food. While I think we geeks have a higher aptitude for what it takes to succeed, its no guarantee. Only personal drive, passion, and motivation can really decide that.

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  38. My friends and I in school were definitely geeks/nerds and we lived by our own rules. We were all way too intelligent for our own good, which made us outsiders in our own way.

    I am definitely not successful as far as money endeavors, but I am successful when it comes to my own happiness. Honestly, I think Alice said it best. I find that most geeks and nerds are more secure in their own selves than people who worry about their looks or keeping up with the Joneses. It's nice to be appreciated and to see an article and book like this being written. May we always encourage the Katies of the world!

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  39. Love this article...fabulous!

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  40. I totally agree, Jen. Part of my strength is being able to accomplish what I want without thinking about what other people think I should do! Being a geek has served me well. Now I just surround myself with geek friends!

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  41. I graduated from a very small private school. While on paper my fellow graduate is doing much better. A high paying career, husband, 2.5 kids, and a dog, I've been following my dreams, which I know she left behind for 'success.' Since high school, I've finished 2 degrees and a teaching certificate, lived in 2 countries, travelled though 18 (I think, lost specific count at some point), and am head over heals in love with a wonderful man.

    We met up around what would have been our ten year reunion and all she could talk about was how much money she made. I couldn't hold a candle to that as I had just spent the year teaching English in China, but my stories were way cooler than hers.

    I would say geeks rule!

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  42. Two experiences that touch on this.

    I was such a nerd in high school that I didn't even realize my classmates took drugs or drank alcohol. I wasn't invited to any of the popular parties and, therefore, missed out on all the peer pressure to grow up before I had to. This may have contributed to my success. Don't know for sure.

    My second example was my high school ceramics class final project. Everybody, except the quiet guy, made generic teapots that all pretty much looked the same. The quiet guy's creation made our jaws drop, because we couldn't figure out how he designed it, much less made it. This reinforced my belief that creative people were just wired differently. If they're weren't different, then they just churned out generic crap like the rest of us.

    So instead of being specific, like "nerd" or "jock," it may be more correct to say "different." By definition, different stands out from the crowd.

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  43. I used to get picked on a LOT at school. I would get pushed down the stairs, spat on and even on occasion beaten up, just cause I was different. And by different I mean actually wearing the school uniform (we have them here in the UK) and actually trying hard in class. I was branded as gay because of it aswell, even though I am not, and frankly my life was a living hell.

    I did have the joyous occasion a while back when I stopped in at a McDonalds and was served by one of the people that used to make my life hell. He didn't recognise me at all, but it still made my day.

    Most of the people from school I don't keep in contact with at all. I even only talk to a couple of people from Uni, mind you... I still talk to loads of people that I met through scouting (that's similar interests for you!) :D

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  44. As usual as it is to talk in terms of 'popular' and 'outsider' I wonder how they actually truly relate to what people feel when they're in HS. Sure there are the kids who seem popular and feel it too, but I have a theory that most kids who might be branded popular by those around them actually feel alone and insecure as well. I'd go as far as to say that by far most kids feel they fit the term outsider (though not all of them will have been teased and bullied for it).

    That would also explain why most movies and books have an outsider as the main character, after all if 95% of people aren't outsiders, that would seriously shrink the target audience for such stories, right?

    This is not something grabbed out of nowhere btw. I always considered myself the least popular person in class back then and I think everyone was quite agreed on who the most popular girl was. Then one day there was a huge row and the teacher actually suspended the lesson to get it worked out. And this popular girl had a breakdown in front of everyone and admitted to thinking that everyone hated her. She wasn't being a drama queen either. I had been firends with her before and I could tell she really meant it. It really changed my view on what 'popular' means, after all it's just a label put on you by other people and most people will never label themselves as such.

    That was a bit of a rant, but I figured it's good to get a different point of view out there.

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  45. I was definitely an outsider in school, very much in middle school, somewhat so in high school. Now, I have everything I'd want, a great job, a PhD, an awesome husband, and a blogging community I adore. I also Funny thing, I actually want to friend everyone from high school on facebook just so they can see how awesome I am now.
    Rosalind

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  46. I think a young geeks success depends entirely on how much support they receive just like with any child. Growing up on the "outside" of the popular crowd is a great way to learn to be independant, but it can also send kids into a very deep depression if their home life is no more accepting than their life among peers.

    I spent 16 years being so battered for my individuality that by high school, I was so desperate to have anyone say that they cared about me that I got in with the wrong man and ended up with 2 kids and no prospects. I managed through years of hard work to climb my way out of abject paverty. I now sit just above the poverty line and with rising costs am seeing years of effort falling to the wayside.

    Those of us that are different enough to be labelled "Geeks" need the mentorship and guidance to become successful, the opportunity to find our special niche and at least the love and support of our families. Anyone under such circumstances can become successful.

    I can't say whether the "in crowd" at my high school ended up more or less successful than myself, but unlike most schools mine didn't have the mean jocks and cheerleaders making life hell for the unique. I should have had an easier time than most seeing that I was in a specialized art school full of art geeks, but somehow not even fitting in with the freaks is even worse.

    All-in-all, just because we are geeks or cool doesn't affect our success. A geek just usually has an interest in more intellectual and complex subjects thereby allowing for greater earning potential.

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  47. The Internet is a great place for geeks, because I have been able to connect with people both older and younger than me (as well as in my own age group) who have the same interests as I do. My earlier successes in connecting with people online was why I decided to join a dating website for geeks, where I met the real-life love of my life.

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  48. I'm not on Facebook and my Twitter/Blog name is pretty anonymous, so I don't keep up with people from high school/college. I only keep up with one of my friends from high school/college. He's moderately successful. (Married, working, pretty normal life.)

    When my high school reunion rolled around, I considered going. It was always a dream of mine to attend, see the lives of the people who bullied me in disarray while I showed off how successful I was.

    After thinking about it, though, I decided I just didn't care enough about anyone from high school to attend. Besides, high school just has too many bad memories (from being bullied mostly) associated with it for me to go back. I'd rather focus on the present and the future.

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  49. I was the outsider kid at school actually. My "Popular" friends....and most of my nerd friends >.> are either still in school or looking for any job they can get to get by. I on the other hand am one step down from a manger position, making an easy double what any of them do, and loving my job! I'd say this geek inherited the earth.

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  50. I think this may be partially true. I know many of the "popular kids" in H.S. are now divorced and I've been happily married for almost 31 years, but...that's also true of the geeks and the nerds. I think a lot of it has to do with personality and how comfortable you are in your own skin on either side of the spectrum. Not all popular kids are negative and not all geeks and nerds are positive.
    I've always been comfortable with who I am and been very happy and "successful" in my life.

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  51. I have Aspergers and ADHD and was overweight through most of elementary, middle and high school. I was teased, bullied, beat up and hated school and life back then. It made me a strong independent woman and now I'm on the Senior Storage Area Network Design and Architect team at IBM. I'm the youngest person to be promoted into this group ever and I'm the only female to make it to Tier 3 which is the highest level you can go. I love my job and I make more than the guys. It also pays for my sportbike addiction (motorcycles ftw!). I'm very involved in my spotbike club and I'm an officer. The popular kids that teased and bullied me are all working dead end jobs and are unhappy and stuck in high school. I'm living proof that your high school career is not what the rest of your life will be.

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  52. I know me and all my fellow geeks are definatly happier, more succesfull, and usually in healthier relationships then the kids who did nothing but try and fit in. Yea for my parents who told me how proud they were of me an my weridness everyday which made it much easier to take the road less travled(but much more interesting)

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  53. That's why we bought our kids T-shirts that say "In 15 years, I'll be your boss."
    Go Geek or go home.

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  54. Too bad you all didn't go to my high school. It was college prep private school with about 200 students per graduating class. I would say the student body was about 75% geeks. In fact one year, the co-valedictorians were a football player and a cheerleader. It was neat to go to a place where being a geek didn't exclude you from being popular.

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  55. Jen, Thank you so much for posting this :)
    I've been a lifetime geek/nerd and have been hiding it the last few years because it isn't 'cool'.

    Well, as of lately, I am letting my geek flag fly! I play World of Warcraft! Who cares?! I LOVE Star Wars! So? I love puzzles! Your point?

    Reading your blog has definitely helped me realize I can be my true self, finally.

    I plan on buying some Star Wars things to decorate my apartment with ;)

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  56. I think there needs to be a differentiation in this between being "popular" in the literal sense and being a bully. There is a difference. In high school there were lots of kids that were popular, as in they got alone with pretty much everyone, and therefore had lots of friends. And then there are "popular" kids who use bullying, gossiping, etc to make themselves feel better than others.
    I can see how geeks would do better than bullies, in the long run. Bullies tend to have low self esteem and a strong need to feel included or give in to peer pressure , while successful geeks learn to be themselves and thrive on their abilities. But this doesn't apply to kids who are literally popular because of good people skills.
    I do think this is a good tool for kids or parents of kids who are being bullied. Anything to get them through the hard times and make them strong is a good thing.

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  57. I can't say I'm successful (I'm too scattered for that,) but I can definitely say that people find me more interesting than a lot of my mainstream classmates! (Okay, by "people," I mean "boys." If only being able to discuss the latest Fringe episode, why Iron Man made for better movies than the Fantastic Four, the differences between communism and socialism, and how much it ACTUALLY hurts to do the Vulcan nerve pinch had earned me the same cult following with high school boys before I was twice their age...) My hope is that this will earn me "cool mom" points when my five-year-old (and already well on his way to being a geek) son is a teenager...

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  58. Thank you for posting this book. My son, who is 16, was ostracized for being different (he has aspergers) by both other kids & adults that he dropped out of school this year rather than suffer any more. He's enrolled in college (yes, he went from a h.s. junior to a college freshman in one week), and plans to get his masters in computer science. But it's been a very difficult time for all of us. I'm going to run out and buy this for him to read.

    And, yes, I was one of those high school freaks. The girls that bullied me? They're all divorced, fat young grandmothers with crap jobs. My life isn't easy, but its a lot better than theirs.

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  59. @Kelly and Ian Kreidich: I think you're exactly right. There were popular kids at my school that everyone liked because they were generally great people, and the "popular" crowd that more often tended to be bullies and look down on people who were different, or "geeky". I think as long as you find a group of friends who share similar interests and don't try to force yourself to assimilate into the "popular" crowd, you'll be successful and happy. I'm still in college so I'm not yet a grownup geek, but I've found some great friends who I can share my geekiness with openly, and so far I'm pretty successful. The popular (not "popular") kids are also doing great because they are confident in themselves too, so I think part of success is confidence and drive to do what you love.

    That said some of the fastest growing and highest paid professions are usually in the interest fields of the "geeks", so maybe it will be true in a few years that geeks will rule! :)

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  60. I don't know about successful...but I think I'm happier with myself now than in high school...I decided to remain geek and, when I got out into the real world, guess what? There were more geeks out there! Almost everyone I work with at the moment is a Geek at some level...which makes for some very interesting conversations sometimes.

    Geeks rock!

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  61. I actually have no idea what any of my classmates are up to so I can't say that I am "more successful". However I have something that a lot of people lack and that is a happines with my self. I'm not the most fashion concious, I'm not the prettiest or thinnest, I'm not up on the latest music or movies and sometimes I feel like a 40-year-old woman in the body of a 25-year-old, but you know what? I'm cool with that. I love knitting and I love "Doctor Who" and "Star Trek", etc. I have friends who really love me for who I am and not because "I fit" them. I know that I have some talent and I use it to help people. I was bullied mercilessly for years in school (elementary...I gave public school a pass for high school and went with homeschooling...) and there were times when I thought, just give in and be "like everyone else", but then thought what a waste of freedom of choice! And what I would have missed out on! Wherever T, C, E, J and H are right now, I hope they're happy. But if not...well...I guess we now know why. LOL :0)

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  62. I loathed highschool, always having felt "different" and somehow less at ease in social situations (i still am in a way...but i've learned to "fake it til I make it" and no one meeting me in my professional life would think I was anything short of a social butterfly).

    I remember my mother telling me once that "the popular kids peak in highschool". That simple statement was such a game changer for me, I use to repeat it like a mantra "this is not my time yet, they are peaking, this too shall pass"....and whatdoyaknow, 12 years later I have three degrees, a great job and a very close knit group of friends who love every geeky inch of me. The popular kids? The few I've kept in touch with married eachother, live in the same town and spend their weekends drinking natty lite and reliving the "glory days".

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  63. So I just logged on to waste some time before cooking dinner and actually said - out loud and to no one in particular - "Hey! I wonder if Jen's back!". And here you are. Flamingo attack and geek girls and all. I MISSED YOU! Glad you had a great trip!

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  64. I TOTALLY would have agreed with this in college, as it described me to a T. Socially excluded in high school, did my own thang, took lots of classes, went off to college and was more content than I had ever imagined being! But now that I'm working in corporate America it's like high school all over again, cliques and all.

    This is depressing. I think it's time to find a new job...

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  65. All three of my kids individuals and are such complete and utter geeks. I was picked on in school and was an introvert because of it and I swore I'd never let that happen to my kids. I succeeded in the fact that they are dorky, nerdy, geeky kids and are proud of it.

    When my 8yr old quotes Hitchhiker's Guide or my 16yr old refuses to date because girls are too much drama (yes, he likes them but he doesn't want to deal with them but even if he didn't it would all be cool) or my 13yr old wears her 'Band Geek and PROUD' shirt to school it makes me smile knowing my babies are tough and know exactly who they are and are enjoying life to the fullest.

    ~Blue

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  66. Mean I just saw this video and thought it was very appropriate.

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  67. You know, I read this post yesterday and I've been pondering it ever since. I'm gonna call BS on this whole theory.

    It hinges on an undefined notion of "success". Do you mean financial success? Well, some of the most popular kids from my high school are now attorneys, doctors or well-paid bankers. You mean having found happiness? Well, one commenter mentioned that the popular kids from their school are now living in the same town, drinking beer on the porch. Maybe they're happy doing that, thus they've found success.

    Comparing high school to adulthood, I can list popular kids who are now happy but not rich, rich but not happy, both happy and rich, and neither happy nor rich. I can do exactly the same with the geeks.

    I think there are multiple paths to wealth and multiple paths to happiness. Some people are equipped to follow one of those paths, some aren't. Some of the well-equipped ones are geeks, some aren't.

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  68. Nope! Me and my outsider friends are still poor and working craptastic jobs while all of the popular kids had a mommy and daddy with money that let them go to good schools and get high paying jobs.

    Sorry to bring down the mood of all the happiness here.

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  69. I totally agree with Durandal. (And I would add that sitting on the porch drinking beer and reminicsing with frineds sounds like an awesome time). While I didn't hate high school, I didn't love it either. But what I love about being older, is that I'm much more sure of myself and confident in my own skin these days. Maybe it's not o much leaving high school, but growing out of your teenage self and into someone with a little more perspective and experience that helps us all feel better later in life. I'd hate to think that geeks are the only ones allowed to grow up and find their place in the world.

    I'm quite the dork, but husband was a jock/stoner in high school(secret English snob) and I love that we can come from such different places to be so awesome together.

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  70. Hells to the YES!! I was never, ever popular in school. I had my own thing and eventually became very proud of my nonconformist personality. Being ridiculed for being myself made me my own best advocate. I turned into a very strong personality as a result and I refuse to take crap from anyone anymore. All of the bullying in school made me learn to fight for my beliefs. It's very freeing. I have succeeded in my career (when I had one) and also succeeded in standing up to those who looked down on me for choosing to give up an excellent and proud career to be an excellent (?) and even prouder SAHM. Now I get to teach my own kids to love themselves for who they are, stand up for themselves, and direct their own lives instead of letting other people direct it for them. I am happier now than I ever was as a kid or teen.

    And then I look at the kids in my H.S. whose only aim in life was to be accepted by everyone at any cost. I really feel for them now. I can't imagine going through life relying on others to confirm if you're good enough to live or not. Very, very sad indeed. Thank you, jerks, for making me a stronger person in the end. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.

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  71. While I started out high school being almost completely excluded from social circles, over the 7 years I was there people grew up, changed, matured, and by the start of the 4th year I was part of a group of friends which numbered 40+. Having looked from both sides of the fence as it were, I'm always a little sceptic about the pro-geek stereotyping of those who are very popular. Plenty of the very pretty, highly social cheerleaders I knew are now successfully studying medicine at very reputable universities. Similarly, some of the people I knew who were "outcasts" for their whole 7 years and just pursued their interests in Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars and LARPing are now failing low quality courses at unimpressive institutions. *However* there are plenty of stories I've seen where the exact opposite is true. Myself now studying at University of Cambridge, arguably the best University in the world (yay, British Pride :P ), I have met individuals of every high school stereotype on track to become successful, educated, happy people. I know many of us geeks are upset about how we were treated in high school, but publishing a book in an attempt to discredit the other side seems very bitter to me. No-one should be told their chances of success change based on who they wish to socialise with, be they extremely popular or not.

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  72. I recently read "The Misfits" by James Howe, which is on this topic, actually. There was a great paragraph in it that I meant to write down before I returned it to the library that talked about how it wasn't any good to be the same as everyone else in school, in order to fit in, because once you were out of school it was more important to stand out. I loved it and I love this article. Thanks for posting, Jen!

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  73. Thank you thank you thank you! My eldest daughter is a geek-in-the-making. Obsessed with dinosaurs and computers, my five year old is nothing at all like her peers. I worry daily about how she'll make it through middle school and high school being so different. This post reminded me that she's ME, only ten times smarter, and I made it through. (And I'm also doing much better than the head cheerleader. Ahem.)
    In any case--thanks for the reminder. It (truly) couldn't have come at a better time.

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  74. Hmmm.... the geek in me wants to analyze this hypothesis... I think the kids responsible for the columbine shooting may disprove this rule... and so would those who were so traumatized as the "geeks" in their school that they were unable to overcome their negative self image enough to "succeed" in life (whatever that means.) As a geek myself, I grew into a pretty normal lady... I'm not Bill Gates and I'm not a world famous scientist but I'm happy! Does that count?

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  75. I just finished this book and I loved it.

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  76. That reminded me of a quote " be nice to the nerds... Someday you might work for them." or this one "be nice to nerds someday they might have access to very large weapons". But I don't remember either of the quoters

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