As children, we’ve all learned that the only formula to succeed is to study hard, get into a good college, score good student grades, and get a good job.
I learned no different from my parents. I was an outstanding student, but not in the way you think. I was always made to stand outside class for my mischievous behaviour.
But I wasn’t alone. There were quite a few out-standing backbenchers who kept me company. Our teacher kept telling us that we would regret our behaviour.
But her words never came true. Not for me, not for my other partners in crime.
The frontbenchers and toppers in our class have done okay in their lives. But the backbenchers have thrived. One of them, who is writing this article, is the founder of an IT company that employs over 100 people and has over 6,000 delighted customers.
Thus, the quality of education at school didn’t dictate who we became.
Ours was not the only class where this trend occurred. The more I looked around, the more I saw it repeat itself. The toppers got good jobs, but the students who got average or bad grades were the ones who changed the world!
What’s going on here?
Why Average Students Do Well in Life?
In a previous article, I outlined three types of qualities that define our careers and lives. In a nutshell, they are:
- Quality 1 (Q1) – Technical Related. These include skills like accounting, programming, and engineering.
- Quality 2 (Q2) – Soft Skills Related. These include skills like communication, body language, Emotional Quotient, and so on.
- Quality 3 (Q3) – Character Related. These are values like empathy, integrity, the ability to lead and face failure, and so on.
Here’s the problem. Education in India focusses 90% of its curriculum on Q1. Q2 gets 10% mention, but there is no place for Q3 at all.
The result is that while toppers score more marks, they’re poorly equipped to handle real life. Consider the following aspects as examples:
Our obsession with grades has led us to believe that knowledge is all about what we learn at school (Q1).
This is why toppers believe that they know everything. When we think we know everything, we don’t want to learn. When we don’t learn, we stop growing. The same goes for many toppers. They only do what they know and prove Andy Hargadon’s words right: “For most people, twenty years’ experience is one year’s experience twenty times.”
But knowledge is so much more. Average students learn a lot more outside school from personal experience. And since experience is the best teacher, their knowledge expands into diverse fields, presents them with multiple career options, and prepares them better for life.
A hidden reason why toppers get placed faster is their ability to adhere to the status quo. Throughout their education, they did what teachers expected. Corporations know that such students won’t rock the boat when they join the corporate world. They’ll do what’s expected of them. (This tendency is why the industrial revolution was successful but the knowledge revolution is faltering.)
But this comfort zone makes them less adaptable. They can work hard but not smart. They need conditions to be perfect (or good at the least) to perform at their optimal level. No wonder their career options stay limited.
Average “rebellious” students, on the other hand, learn to be street smart. They learn to make best use of available resources. They know how to manage people and get maximum returns for their effort.
Thus, while most students become efficient at doing their work, average students become effective at delivering results. And results lead to progress.
Failure teaches us to appreciate what we have, take nothing for granted, and keep moving forward. But society doesn’t look at failure like this. It looks at people who’ve failed as if they’ve committed a sin. This is why the usefulness of the occurrence gets missed.
Most students learn by rote in school. This puts them into the habit of waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Even if they try to explore something new (a project, a startup etc.), it’s often “copied”.
The fear of failure gets so deeply imbibed in most students that they refuse to think outside. They keep fearing what people might think about them. They cannot display resilience or handle frustration if they get passed over for a promotion in favor of someone not as qualified (meaning educated) as them.
Less studious people, on the other hand, are less afraid because they have a good appetite for it. From experience, they learn that no failure is final. In the process they also learn to stop worrying about people’s opinions, which is a key trait for success.
Imitation stifles innovation. Failure fuels it. This is why “average” and “bad” students change the world!
You have noticed the above aspects too, isn’t it? They prove that grades are not the final thing in life, but a small portion of it. While Q1 education is important, Q2 and Q3 play crucial roles in deciding how successful the youth will be when they step into the real world.
Should we still focus only on students’ grades? If not, what are your suggestions to increase focus on smart workers?
I would love to read your comments.