Why academic excellence doesn’t equate to real-world success
And how our choices and a bit of luck does the trick for a good life.
Growing up in a society where school grades are given more emphasis than real talent — I have seen & experienced the level of hypocrisy our current education system exercises. I’ll present my point of view with a real-life precedent. Let’s name the two individuals as Chris & John. These two characters are real persons whom I have known very closely since high school.
Then — 7 years earlier
Chris was a nice, athletic, disciplined & academically very focused individual. He excelled in his studies and probably was one of those few in school who one would consider above average. He was certainly not one of those who would party on weekends or play hooky occasionally. Well, it was never in his case. He had the utmost dedication for the work at hand and had the utmost respect for the teachers and school alike. He dreamt of big things in life and had a blind belief that good grades can really make his dreams come true someday.
John on the other hand was an absolute dunce. Well, he was not a complete idiot but he was always baffled by basic arithmetic and saw no reason in any of those classes setting him up for a good life. He was lazy in academics and had little to no respect for teachers or school grades in general. He was the kind of student who would play hooky every day if he could. Let’s just say, he was the absolute opposite to dear Chris in approach towards academics and everything that came along with it.
Now — 7 years later
Chris has finished his graduation with a stellar performance. That was two years ago. I just met him recently — he seems quite lost in life. He has no job — basically no source of income. He takes money from his parents for basic sustenance and for further studies. From what I could tell, the guy is preparing for some government exam that has a below 0.1% selection rate. He has already tried 2–3 times but to no avail. The guy looks pretty fit health-wise but mentally and emotionally drained as hell. He just admitted that he has lost direction in his life and had no damn idea what has gone wrong. I tried being empathetic and gave him a few advice and to connect the dots looking backwards. After all, no one can make sense of what’s happening in their life looking forward.
Steve Jobs says it better -
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
John on the other hand has a great life. He works at an MNC with a great package. From Monday through Friday, John works 5–6 hrs a day from the comfort of his home (WFH), goes to the gym every day and catches up with his buddies for a nice hangout in the evening. And on the weekends, John goes out for a nice getaway or has a slumber party occasionally. Above all that, John manages to improve his skillset and makes time for other creative endeavours. I met John recently, and from what I could see — he is ambitious as hell.
Chris was a straight-A student — he chooses the academic path. He put all his eggs in one basket and failed to diversify his skill set. With his level of literacy — he could have made better choices & taken up a lot of better opportunities. He definitely regrets some of his choices now. But nothing can be done about the past.
John on the other hand kept less faith in what his grades can do and diversified his skillset early on. He focused more on developing his personality (real-world skills) rather than limiting all of his faith in one basket — academics. Of course, I can certainly agree that John must have made a lot of better choices than Chris in the last seven years since high school. And that added with a bit of luck — everything worked out like a charm for John.