“It’s a shame that people shut down ideas because they’re worried about being crushed by people who are supposedly better educated than them. In my opinion, the entrepreneurial drive beats a fancy degree anytime.” – Richard Branson
Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur, is the perfect example of why grades aren’t everything. He didn’t go to a prestigious university or even finish secondary school. He suffered from dyslexia and could barely keep up with his studies. However, rather than allowing his challenges to make him feel inferior, Branson said the key to finding success was to focus on the things he was passionate about. He produced “Student” magazine, which provided a platform and a voice for young people. “And a wonderful thing happened”, he writes on his blog. “Following my passion gave me drive and purpose. My mind opened up and so did my world. The headmaster gave me an ultimatum, forcing me to choose between staying in school or pursuing the magazine. I chose to leave, and I’ve never looked back.”
Of course, we can’t all be the next Branson, Gates or Zuckerberg but they sure make a good case against the prevailing notion that high grades is the only ‘passport’ to high-paying jobs and future success. While true, because who would want to hire someone without knowledge, skills, and competence in the workplace, it should be pointed out that there are more successful people and self-made millionaires who did not earn good grades or grade point average (GPAs) in their studies. It doesn’t mean that students should coast through college but it’s worth remembering that good grades get you to graduation but the extracurricular activities are involved in getting you a career.
The general trend in our society, in our schools and in our homes is that we encourage our children to choose professions that are reputed, dignified and above all offer a lot of money. We want them to be doctors, engineers, lawyers and so on. However, very few of us want our children to be entrepreneurs, and even if they do, they don’t know how to assist and train the children in this regard. Entrepreneurship is the great equalizer of our economy and entrepreneurs actually the most contributing members of the society.
A study showed that 41% of the self-made millionaires were ‘B’ students, 29% were ‘C’ students and 21% were ‘A’ students. More successful people have not always been A students. Academic achievements are a reflection of hard work and consistency – not intelligence or ability. It does not imply a person’s ability to cope with entanglements, impediments or disappointments. Success requires mental and emotional toughness, in defeating these entanglements, and successful individuals are good at postponing satisfaction. They are capable of holding temptation and overcoming fear in order to do what they need to do. They are bold and brave. Such qualities require mental strength and toughness, so it’s no coincidence these are some of the traits of successful people.
I’m a firm believer in the motto “Work smarter, not harder”. Research shows that chasing after perfect grades discourages creativity and reduces academic risk-taking. When your only motivation to study is to ace the next test, this will cause learning fatigue and other implications such as high stress and mental health problems. Students put so much pressure on themselves to get the perfect grades that they often suffer breakdowns and fall over themselves to get the perfect GPA, but a 4.0 means nothing if you cannot demonstrate your skills later on down the line. No one at NASA will care what grade you got in an elective art history class during your freshman year of undergraduate work. A movie producer usually isn’t going to care about the A you got in Bio 101.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a straight A student and undoubtedly, good grades can open doors but it is not the only key ingredient for success and not enough different types of intelligence are being celebrated in society today. Our world today is in fact not run by Valedictorians or straight A students. or every CEO of a major company that graduated with a 4.0 GPA, there are scores more who did not. What matters in business, and in life, is pursuing goals with a sense of purpose. Having ambition and directing that ambition toward a problem.
Remember that entrepreneurs can do what lawyers and doctors cannot and that is to create jobs and when we create jobs, our economy blossom. The conventional way of doing something isn’t what is going to be the next game changer. Be brave.