The S is Not for Stupid

By Shanae Godley

Wrapping up a meeting with a group of amazing people and I hear the most profound statement I’ve heard in a long time come from across the table.

“The S is not for Stupid!”

This statement has blessed my whole soul! I can’t seem to get it off of my mind. Let me tell you why.

The members of the group were in conversation about something that was happening back at the office. One of them was experiencing the joy of being on their leader’s radar and inquired about how to handle the moment when your leadership realizes that you are capable of contributing more to a job or task than you have in the past. This was a healthy discussion and one I fear we don’t have enough of in the workplace. 

The fact of the matter is leadership on your job should be looking for your growth and potential as a contributor to the mission and vision of the company or organization you work for, right?  That’s part of their job. If everyone at the company is staying on the same level they were at when they started working there and has no personal growth, then how will the company ever grow? Organizational capacity building begins with individual capacity building. The expansion of the mind and soul of the people within an organization is paramount to improving the structure and helping the organization grow. 

At work I have a quote that helps me get through most days with some level of achievement – it’s been working for over 5 years- “Add Value, Earn Reward.” As simple as this statement is, it reminds me that it is up to me to add value to the organization and the work we are doing. In order to add value, I must grow in knowledge, skill, and the development of personal and leadership qualities. I must be willing to grow in order to fulfill my mission.


Now, here’s the catch, it seems that when I add value, the reward is not always something glamorous, like fancy watches or a company car. Hahaha! Who am I kidding, it is never glamorous. In fact, it’s often met with an increase in workload, not paycheck. I usually feel a sense of gratification in the work I’ve done and I appreciate EVERY “thank you” and “recognition.” However, my greatest measurement of adding value is when people start trying to reward me with more work.

So, back to the conversation. After venting about the piling on of additional work assignments, one person exclaimed, “They think I have a S on my chest!” 

In agreement with this feeling, another person exclaimed “I tell them that the S is not for stupid,” 

And from across the table I chime in with a solid, “I know that’s right.”

What I learned from this conversation and the reason it meant so much to me is because I know what it feels like to have to wear the S on my chest at work, home, etc., and while I’ve become much better at managing my workload and using the word ‘no,’ I could always do better. It’s not easy trying to be anyone’s superhero. In fact I don’t believe I am one. I just have the capacity (or power) to do super things. 

You see, the problem with the leadership theory of “Recognize Value, Add More Work” is that it can be overwhelming for the person who is adding the value. While they are grateful for the opportunity and wants to keep your trust, workloads can become a bit much. Without proper management of workloads, people can become tired, burnt out, upset, anxious, and ultimately demonstrate poor performance. This has been shown in workplaces all over the world, and often contribute to high turnover rates and so much more. 

In order to continue walking in the mantra, “Add Value, Earn Reward,” I must also remind myself, and those around me, that the S on my chest stands for:







And maybe a little Sweet;

But, it does not stand for stupid. I can and will approach all assignments with mindfulness; intelligence, and common sense. Say no when it’s necessary and yes as often as possible. 

No doubt, you should aim to add value in everything you do, being mindful that rewards are not always glitz and glamor but they shouldn’t always be additional work. Unfortunately, it usually is. In the words of Jonas Salk, who has been credited for the discovery of one of the first successful polio vaccines, “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.”

So, while the additional work may seem stupid, at first glance, the reward isn’t in the work. The reward is in the opportunity. The challenge is to choose wisely when to say yes (if possible), continue to grow, add value, and earn rewards or opportunities. One day you’ll look up and wonder why you ever doubted yourself. The S on your chest has many meanings, but stupid is not one of them.

You have the power (capacity) to do super things! Adding value is a super thing, no matter where you are, so opportunities will surely come. Take full advantage of the opportunities you have been given, for this is the true reward, and the gift that just keeps on giving.

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