Topper students rarely become business leaders or millionaires. Here, we discuss the hard truth behind education’s reality, and how you can inculcate the habits that are important for success in life.
Some of the most popular billionaires and founders of successful companies are college dropouts, including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Bill Gates of Microsoft. This list of Hollywood’s biggest actors is, similarly, filled with high school dropouts like Jim Carrey and Johnny Depp. The more you look everywhere, the more successful people you’ll find were C students or worse – dropouts.
Topping in class and getting good grades consistently is not easy. Education teaches us to learn and work hard. But if education is supposed to prepare us for professional lives, why then were so many successful people bad at studies? The truth is that many studies suggest that class valedictorians and toppers rarely become millionaires and successful people.
According to the research of Karen Arnold, a professor at Boston College, the average GPA of American millionaires is actually 2.9. Moreover, most of the people in the highest executive positions weren’t class toppers.
Why Topper Students Fair Average in Real Life
Academically average students fair better in life than toppers in their schools. Now this is a very controversial statement. Most people (average students) would like to believe it’s true. But on the other hand, many people may find this completely ridiculous. Well, I’m not here to here to say that this is the absolute truth or justify statistics, but I’m here to explain the logic in discussion.
Academic Success is based on Rule Following
A student’s success in the academic world depends upon how well they comply to their school’s rules and regulations. They do their timely homework, they put effort wherever their teachers tell them to and work hard so that they can score well in exams which have a pre-defined structure.
School toppers are often the teacher’s favorite students as they are obedient and comply with all the defined rules of their institution and course curriculum. The institute also rewards such topper students who comply with all the rules and regulations.
Now average students or below average students, on the hand, also try to comply with their school’s rules, but their focus and priorities are somewhat different. They are generally categorized as naughty, as they are constantly trying to bend or break house rules. These students are always curious and want to challenge everything, question everything and no matter how clear the instructions are, go against it. These students often get punished for their deeds, some change and become toppers of their class, other don’t.
Does Education Really Prepare Us for the Real World?
For most students, the education system trains them to become followers and not leaders. Students who are academically good, get used to rules and regulations so much that they are unable to think beyond them. They get so used to structure and rules that they feel uneasy if things aren’t well defined.
However, everything changes once these topper students graduate and enter the professional world. Suddenly they find themselves in a strange new world without any set of rules or patterns. The scrounge to find new leaders to follow – their spouse or boss or a mentor – someone who can tell them what to do and validate their actions constantly.
Life is not school, there are so many situations in which you need to find unconventional and creative solutions to a problem. But things are never easy for them. Those who are in a habit of constantly looking for rules and directions find uncertain situations more stressful, such as layoffs, work travel to a new country, a new boss, or even a promotion with added responsibility, when they are expected to become a team leader. An academically good student, while too good in well-structured organization, is unlikely to lead it or create his/her own company.
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This is why, if look for examples you will find that most entrepreneurs are often not very good academically. Many of the successful were college dropouts or performed just average. In order for someone to have an out of the box mindset, one must but ready to break some rules. A box is nothing but a set of defined rules, and to be able to think out of the box, you need to have an attitude that does not comply with rules.
What are Good Marks Good for?
The lesson that I would like students, parents and institutes to take back is that good marks just convey high level of compliance, not potential for success. This might be good to survive in schools but may not be good enough for real life.
Yes, students to need to have a focus, but they should also try to experiment. They must realize what their definition of success in school is finally what gets repeated in real life. Topper students with good marks, are good at complying, thus are only good for jobs. These students may lack an entrepreneurial zeal to break away from the crowd.
So what does this mean for you as student? Should you try to break all the rules and make it your mission to get bad grades? Well actually no! Successful people don’t become so by getting bad grades but inspite of them. They are curious and don’t follow rules just because they are told to. They are hard working but don’t work for something just because it’s an order.
How to Find Out if You Possess the Qualities for Success in Life?
So your purpose in the students life is to find out what you enjoy most enjoy doing, what your real talents are. It could be one of the subjects like maths, arts or social sciences. Or it could be an extra-curricular activity like sports or public speaking.
If you get good marks or are one of the topper students, ask yourself this. Are you studying because you love your subjects or because your teachers and parents expect you to? If you get bad marks, ask yourself if it’s because you don’t like the subject or because you simply didn’t work hard enough? The answers may surprise you and help you realize your true potential.
Have any thoughts? Leave your comments below or tweet @slubguy.
Abhishek Sareen is a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He started his career as a management consultant and currently works in international business. He has set up businesses like Track & Trail, BrooksBicycles.com and created consumer brands like Montra, Machcity and Roadeo. He’s is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events like MTB Himalaya. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.