I was an A-student back in school. I worked very hard to get them. I knew that they were my ticket to something bigger and greater. At least that’s what I used to believe – until I realized that the only things bigger and greater were the ones I found on my own.
Don’t think that that’s true? Then how is it that you and your colleagues can all be so diverse in your backgrounds and academics, yet you all do the same job. You probably all get paid roughly about the same too. In some instances the people who did worse in school are the boss or actually make more than you do.
If that’s so, then do grades really matter? What’s the point of killing yourself for a 4.0 grade point average or going to a good college if you’re all going to make the same amount of money and end up in the same place anyways?
Aren’t all the best and highest paying jobs reserved for the smartest kids with the best grades?
You Want to Get Good Grades:
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ll never not reinforce getting good grades with my kids. You’ll always want to shoot for good grades. Bad ones never accomplish anything.
- All throughout elementary all the way up through high school – good grades are what get you to the next level. If you did well in one class, you were invited to join the harder ones. If you managed to stick through those ones, then you could skip some of the more basic classes by the time you got to college.
- Getting good grades would literally make or break whether or not you got into a good college. Sometimes it was the basis as to whether you’d receive a scholarship.
- A lot of employers will base their tuition reimbursement on your good grades. Why should they pay for your grad-school classes if you’re just going to flunk?
- Even some car insurance companies will reward you for having all A’s.
If those are the rules of our society when it comes to getting good grades, then why should we even question it?
Because that’s what we’ve all been programmed to believe.
I remember being a small child and doing everything I could to make my parents proud. I would compete with the other kids in the class to win the attention and adoration of our teacher. As kids we’re taught that straight A’s are the ultimate prize and the very definition of a job well done.
As you get older this only becomes harder because your class sizes grow and your competition becomes greater. Class favorites from the other schools are soon integrated into your class and you are all trying your hardest to out-shine the others. Why? To get into a good college of course.
Once in college the ultimate treasure is to get that degree! Why? Because you NEED that degree to get a good job; a high-paying job! To some extent a degree has become the social equivalent of being prequalified for a credit card offer; the employer knows ahead of time if you’ve “got what it takes” because you’ve got the right degree and supposedly know your stuff.
And then it happens. You enter the void. That armor that used to be your good grades suddenly disappears. You’re naked in a strange world you don’t quite understand.
Getting Good Grades is Not How Real Life Works:
There is a slow invisible transition that takes place after you leave school and go to work. Grades no longer become what we hold so dear. Your GPA is forgotten. Your degree hangs quietly on the wall in a picture frame. The teachers and professors you worked so hard to impress are now distant memories. You are alone, and in your path stands the one true thing that will determine whether or not your career will move ahead or folly-up in reverse – the opinion of your superiors.
Your superiors are the ultimate grade that matters. They are the final exam. They are the judge and jury. Without them, expect no pay increases. Expect no bonuses. Expect no promotions. Expect to do all the crappy jobs that no one else wants to do.
This is the great equalizer. This is where a D student and an A student are suddenly in the same Roman arena with weapons they barely know how to wield. But now here you are – in a match to the death. Who will win?
Why is this? It’s because employees they can control. And they don’t necessarily care how they do it.. They want people who are going to add to their bottom line. They want
You could be a thousand times better “on paper” than your colleagues. You could be doing everything correctly, and by the book! You have every reason in the world to succeed. But if the other guy is more likeable, adored, (fill in the reason) by the superiors, then forget it. You lose.
So When Do Grades Really Matter Then?
There is an interesting phenomena I’ve witnessed at work many times. Someone will come up with a great idea, they will institute a new process or procedure, and people will begin to follow it. But then over time it gets diluted. Years later people keep following the process, but they don’t know why. They just do it because they have to. They’ve lost the reason why.
To some degree that’s how I feel about school and getting good grades. Getting good grades really does matter – but you have to focus on the why instead of the result. Sharpen your talents. You have to train yourself in the art of problem solving and creativity so that you can be ready to handle those enemies in the arena. Getting good grades for the sake of having them is meaningless.
That is the only real value I can think of to earning good grades – developing your talents as a problem solver. That’s only true talent that anyone really values. And more importantly what happens as a result of it.
Your ability to accelerate in your career will be tied to what you can produce, and that will always be a function of what you know and who will help you. I’ve seen people with nothing more than a high school education master the second part (the who you know) to leverage more than they could ever think up or produce on their own. As “A” students, I think we sometimes forget about this half of the equation. We think that just because we know something that the reward belongs to us. In reality the reward belongs to whoever the king bestows it to. And if you’re not the one who gets there first, then shame on you.
Good grades are the key to the door. But it’s what YOU know how to do once you go inside that really counts. There are skills to master, talents to develop, and people to impress. You are always being judged and challenged. Be ready.
Readers – Where do you stand on this? Do grades really matter, or is your GPA just a number? As adults in the real working world, what have your observations and experiences been like?
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