It’s time for progress reports again. That means I have a ton of students hyper-concerned about their current grades.
I hate it. I hate it every year. Every quarter.
Their bodies physically transform in front of your eyes when they see their mark and it’s less than they had hoped for and desired. They shrink. They deflate.
They do this because they believe, with the help of adults around them, that their grades tell them something about themselves.
They really don’t. Grades transfer very little to anything else in life.
Lebron James isn’t successful because of his grades. Bill Gates isn’t successful because of his grades. There’s simply very little crossover.
Your parents do say a lot about your life chances. They transfer their genes to you and usually decide your geographic location for much of your upbringing. These are the two largest determinants of your future income and many markers of success, however defined. Your grades are often just a reflection of these two factors and the extent they predict anything, it’s almost certainly because of them.
If a kid gets a grade lower than they want, the answer isn’t to deflate or shrink, it’s to pivot or grind. Pivot to something else entirely, something they have a relative advantage in. Being really good at math is certainly lucrative and provides an opportunity for money, fame, and personal engagement or meaning. But so does making funny YouTube videos, which requires no math at all.
Seriously, who gives a fuck. Stop with the attention on grades. There are roughly six subjects taught in school and that means there are roughly six ways to feel successful in school. There are an infinite number of ways to feel successful outside of school in actual life. Decrease the importance of those six topics if you aren’t as good as you’d like to be and figure out an alternative. I promise there is much more success to be found in non-traditional areas than the conservative hallways of a school.
By the time anything makes it into a school, it’s more or less dogma and “figured out”. That means there’s very little space to navigate successfully as an innovator or pioneer. Focus on what you’re interested in and spend ten hours a day grinding away at that. By the time you finish school, you’ll have accrued thousands of hours doing that thing and hopefully be one of the few people in your class even decent at it, rather than half decent at the same thing as all your classmates who learned the same thing as you in all their classes. This makes you unique and potentially valuable.
Schools no longer have the monopoly on value they once did. People are becoming highly engaged, self-actualized and fulfilled millionaires every day on the internet by providing products and services to very niche markets. Find your market. Develop 1,000 true fans and sell them a few products a year until you die. You’ll be connected with them. You’ll have purpose. You’ll also have a 1,000 bosses and not one. If one doesn’t like you, your life continues on more or less uninterrupted. What could be better?
School doesn’t say much about you because school gives you very little of what will make you “you” in adulthood. Don’t take it as something that decides who and what you’ll be. There’s no need to deflate because there’s little that will transfer. Transfer is a myth.