No Two Words More Harmful than “Good Job”

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One of my favorite movies to come out in recent years is Whiplash which won several Oscars.

If you’re not familiar with it, here’s the link to it in IMDB.


If you haven’t seen it I HIGHLY recommend that you do.

Many people probably look at it quite differently than I do, as a sad or cautionary tale.

I don’t, instead seeing it as a powerful metaphor of dedication and motivation.

Here is one of the important dialogues in that movie:


Terence Fletcher:

I don’t think people understood what it was I was doing at Shaffer. I wasn’t there to conduct. Any fucking moron can wave his arms and keep people in tempo. I was there to push people beyond what’s expected of them. I believe that is… an absolute necessity. Otherwise, we’re depriving the world of the next Louis Armstrong. The next Charlie Parker. I told you about how Charlie Parker became Charlie Parker, right?


Jo Jones threw a cymbal at his head.


Exactly. Parker’s a young kid, pretty good on the sax. Gets up to play at a cutting session, and he fucks it up. And Jones nearly decapitates him for it. And he’s laughed off-stage. Cries himself to sleep that night, but the next morning, what does he do? He practices. And he practices and he practices with one goal in mind, never to be laughed at again. And a year later, he goes back to the Reno and he steps up on that stage, and plays the best motherfucking solo the world has ever heard. So imagine if Jones had just said: “Well, that’s okay, Charlie. That was all right. Good job. “And then Charlie thinks to himself, “Well, shit, I did do a pretty good job.” End of story. No Bird. That, to me, is an absolute tragedy. But that’s just what the world wants now. People wonder why jazz is dying. I’ll tell you, man – and every Starbucks “jazz” album just proves my point, really – there are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job”.


But is there a line? You know, maybe you go too far and you discourage the next Charlie Parker from ever becoming Charlie Parker?


No, man, no. Because the next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged.

Now, I can’t say that I agree 100%. A well timed “good job” can be every bit as powerful as a cymbal to the head.

But that doesn’t mean that Terence is wrong.

Part of the problem with so many people is they don’t even have challenge enough put in front of them.

In a world where everything is celebrated, nothing is celebrated.

There’s too much pussyfooting around.

Let me ask you this. Do you have a mentor who makes you feel like shit?

Why would anyone want that?

Because it just might be the most empowering thing that might occur in your life.

I have had that before. It sucks…in the moment, yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything because of how it has shaped me.

Have you experienced that?

A good teacher can expect far more from you than you ever see in yourself.

Especially as a man, to rise up and meet this challenge, is part and parcel of the masculine energy.

Yes, you may fall, crash and burn along the way. And then you just get back up again. That’s part of life.

So for those of you that need it…

Let this be that cymbal coming at your head!

Get off your ass and get going…

P.S. Want to learn how to take that raw emotional energy and channel it into something? Then you’ll enjoy Berzerker State.


  1. I honestly do not believe TOO much severity will achieve the desired results, especially over the long term. A very long time ago, I worked for a complete a_hole. At a job that was completely unsuitable and self-esteem destroying. Ended up mentally broken & it exarcebated all kinds of existing self-doubts.

    It took more than a decade; completely rebuilt myself to the point where am hardly the same person anymore. So it helped it a sense. But it was NOT the goal(s) that the individual in question had in mind when implementing the whole, “mentor” thing. I do not know which term to use since mentor is someone who guides and pushes when necessary.. and keeps the student’s interest in mind

    I tend to respect both results and sincerity. That situation had none of that, and virtually ALL the stated goals remain incomplete.


    I guess a balance is what is needed. Of course, you DO NOT want a teacher to constantly praise you, it is completely idiotic like parents who completely spoil their children in all circumstances for zero valid reason.

    However, pushing a person to the point where more harm than good is done, sometimes extreme harm, serves a futile purpose as well.

    Lastly, the original goal must be kept in mind, and MUST match the goal(s)/ purpose of the student. If the goal only serves to aggrandize the teacher and diminish the student in the long term, it can hardly be considered worthwhile or worthy, no?? 🙂

    i speak from personal experience, having been on the receiving end of both villains & virtual saints :p Don’t know if sharing this contributed to discussion, but it is my very real hope it did.

    1. Author

      I think you’re right on. Are they being “mean” in order to help you, or just because it makes them feel better? To be an asshole in a helpful way is a skill and an art 😉

  2. lol yes, it is! 😉

    sometimes i play this role too, but do not always reveal dem benevolent intentions. and do not, unfortunately possess a great way with the spoken word so it doesnt always turn out in the best way. try to, though.


    if u have watched((u MUST have)) the Incredibles, theres this scene where Incredible is having a quarrel with his wife about his disdain for postmodern society’s outright celebration of mediocrity..

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