The Apprentice is possibly my favourite TV show ever – but for all the wrong reasons.
The Apprentice is a show I have been watching for many years.
It is my weekly dose of Sugar. Alan Sugar is the only form of sugar I can take and not fall asleep half an hour later.
Back in 2014, I wrote a blog post about The Apprentice in which I was pretty scathing about the candidates.
I opened that post with these words:
‘The Apprentice is back on our screens and already I am in despair over the glaring discrepancy between the candidates’ ludicrous self-puffery and their actual abilities.’
I went on to warn that if parents of tiny children insist on telling little Oscar how clever he is every single time he does the most mundane things, he will grow up to be like the most annoying candidates on the Apprentice.
Everywhere in life we encounter people who believe they can get by in life simply by banging on about how great they are at everything without actually being obviously great at anything.
The Apprentice still appears, in 2016, to be populated with people who don’t understand the difference between being brilliant and telling people they are brilliant.
They big themselves up before a task, only to look completely baffled (and hurt!) in the board room when Lord Sugar bigs up their total incompetence, in simple tasks they have failed at by a million miles.
When I see the baffled looks, I think of all the witless parents I have seen praising their kids to high heaven for being able to draw a crappy ‘circle’ on a piece of paper.
If the ‘circle’ actually looks like a lopsided chicken, it is probably best that you don’t start yelling, “clever boy! You made a circle!”
He may end up on the Apprentice one day believing that lopsided chickens are suitable substitutes for actual circles.
And he will look crestfallen when Lord Sugar ridicules his ‘circle’ and fires him.
It’s much kinder to say, “well I can see you really tried with that and if you were going for a lopsided chicken, it’s brilliant! But if you were thinking ‘circle’, little Jimmy, it’s a bit shit. Try again and try harder.“
We need to be careful and realistic with our praise of children’s achievements otherwise it becomes meaningless.
As I said in my post from 2014, the Apprentice is, in my opinion, one of the most entertaining but disturbing shows on TV today.
Since I wrote it, I have watched last year’s show and am halfway through the 2016 one and, my opinion has not changed at all.
To quote from my last article:
‘Every year we see a bunch of youngsters bigging themselves up to bursting point. They all say the same stuff – “I’m passionate, I’m the best there is, I could sell ice to Eskimos, I’m like a young Lord Sugar” etc etc etc.’
And then they totally screw up the simplest of tasks.
It is deeply disturbing to me that out of all the candidates who applied to go on the show, these ones were chosen as the best of the bunch. Is this the kind of business talent our country has to offer?
Are these people Lord Sugar’s best hope for turning his £250,000 investment into £250,000000? I hope not.
I hope that the producers, or whoever chooses the candidates, are selecting them based on how entertaining they will be rather than how astute they are in business.
There is rarely any substance to back up the grand claims these candidates make about themselves and I am still firmly behind my belief that people like this come from the “wow! Well done, clever you!” generation who fail to understand that what grandma has always said about your abilities may not be true.
Grandmas are biased.
I am very careful in my praise for my grandchildren, I make sure it is honest and encouraging. I don’t tell them their ‘circle’ is brilliant if it looks like a lopsided chicken.
It is effort and tenacity that I praise and when the circle loses its chicken-like appearance, then I start to praise that too. We need our children to grow and persevere so that the self-belief they take into the world is realistic.
Last week, the Apprentice was slightly more encouraging to watch.
We saw 25 year old Frances Bishop lead Team Nebula to a spectacular victory in Episode 7, the boat show task.
However, the rare but glorious financial success achieved by Team Nebula on that task was counterbalanced by the spectacular fail brought home by Team Titan, lead by Karthick Nagesan.
Karthick, is now famous for an extremely disturbing quote about his abilities as a project manager. During the boat show task autopsy, prior to his unprecedented firing, before the final boardroom showdown, he tried to impress Lord Sugar with this:
“I even project managed the conception of my baby boy. I know the exact hotel room in the exact country on the exact day he was conceived. How many parents can give the gift of that information to their kids?”
Say what? At some point in his life, I can see Karthick’s son with his fingers in his ears singing la la la la la. No-one wants that information from their parents. No-one.
So, thus far through the Apprentice 2016, I stand by the advice I gave parents about praise back in 2014.
Encourage your children by all means. Be supportive but don’t throw praise around like cheap confetti. Save the ‘wow well dones’ for genuine achievements to help them learn the difference between mediocrity and excellence and to give them something to aspire to.
If mummy jumps up and down and says “good boy! Clever boy! Look daddy, Oscar made a dot on the paper! Clever boy!”, then you aren’t going to develop your mark-making skills beyond the dot because the dot you did was obviously the best thing ever.
That is where, I believe, self-delusion begins, unless you have sensible parents or teachers who save the really lavish praise for achievements of substance.
Do you fancy yourself as a business partner to Lord Sugar?
If you’ve ever thought about going on the Apprentice… I beg you – if you have any genuine business acumen, creativity and common sense, please apply and make the next Apprentice, whenever that may be, a year when we in the UK can say, wow, these people are our future.
Next time, I don’t want to sit and cringe at the dreadful ‘viral’ video ideas that supposedly clever and creative young people are coming up with.
I want to feel confident that there are young people out there with common sense and abilities that could make this country prosperous (or failing that, just Lord Sugar).
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What is your view on the Apprentice (either lead by Lord Sugar in the UK or President Trump in the US!)
Is there a version of the Apprentice in your country – what is it like?