To: The “B” student
From: One of your own
You have the world’s permission to be a doctor, a lawyer, a start-up CEO, or anything else you desire to be. The rejection letter you received from a college because you were a “B” student is a false signal. It’s a by-product of an education system designed to convince you that you need to be an “A” student to be successful. Don’t buy it.
Phycologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D writes about the fallacy of good grades. According the Dr. Price-Mitchell, “internal strengths . . . are far more important to a life of success and well-being than whether a child earns an “A” on an Algebra exam.” I agree.
Grit will get you a lot further in your professional life than any other quality. I should know.
My resume looks great. I have an electrical engineering degree from a state university and a law degree from a top 25 law school. Moreover, I’m one of a lucky 30 or so people out of my 200 person graduating class to get a “big law” job straight out of law school. My resume even mentions my short career as a circus acrobat to pique the interviewer’s curiosity.
My resume won’t tell you, however, that my first grade in law school was a C+, one of the lowest grades law schools give out. It does not say that I got into law school off the wait list. Likewise, you won’t discover from reading my resume that I almost quit my engineering program. I questioned whether I was smart enough to get through the brutal classes. In fact, I went as far as speaking to a counselor about switching into a business program.
Please know that you’re supposed to struggle. It’s supposed to be hard. In reality, if you’re doing something hard, it’s a sign that your doing something right. Most people avoid “hard things”; I implore you not to be one of those people.
I believe in the philosophy that you should choose the harder path when stuck between two options. Lean in to the task that scares you. It’s made all the difference in my life.
Every time I catch a professional break, it’s a byproduct of that philosophy. I was offered a seat in my law school class because I was an Electrical Engineer “EE” and they needed an EE for their Intellectual Property Program. After law school, I received my big law job offer because there were so few candidates that have both electrical engineering degrees and law degrees that I had very little competition for the job. I certainly didn’t get the job because of my “B” average.
Of course, I didn’t know any of this when I was going through high school or college. It’s only in hindsight that I can appreciate what I did right and what I did wrong as I made my way into the adult world. These are the principles that I’ve come to value as I continue to work my way through life:
1. Do hard things.
You will never regret the decision to do something that challenges your very being – I promise. You might wake up one day and regret that you didn’t challenge yourself.
Electrical engineering school was painful for me. Some of the classes were tedious, and I spent a lot of time in the library when my friends were relaxing. But, if I hadn’t struggled my way through engineering school, I never would have gotten into law school or have received that coveted first job offer. Get out of your comfort zone and work on something that doesn’t come naturally to you. It pays dividends.
Neil deGrasse Tyson says it best:
2. Learn to fail – “B” students experience a failure that “A” students are never confronted with.
If you learn to move from failure to failure without loosing enthusiasm, you’ll be a success. Clawing your way through something difficult will forge you into tempered glass. You will be able to handle the failure we all face from time-to-time better than your peers. And when adversity comes, and it will come, you’ll be left standing when others around you are shattering. I’ve seen this happen first hand.
Highly ranked law schools are ripe for disappointment. Nearly every person in the class has a 4.0 undergraduate GPA. In fact, most of the students have never experienced academic failure. When the first semester grades are released, the cold hard fact that only 10% of the class will receive an “A” sends a waive of depression to 90% of the class.
The reality that if you’re not at the top of the class you won’t get a decent paying job sets in. After that first semester, several people dropped out of law school and dozens more gave up but remained in the class. As I said before, my first grade was a C+, but academic adversity wasn’t new to me. By the last semester of law school, I received mostly “A”s.
It can seem that the “A” students cruise through school and you grind just to get a “B”. I know the feeling. Try to appreciate that you’re learning a life lesson “A” student’s aren’t being exposed to. You’re learning how to handle a feeling of failure – and that makes you a very dangerous person.
3. Illegitimi Non Carborundum
One more thing. Every time you get knocked down I want you to remember Illegitimi non carborundum. Translation: Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down.
Live Intentionally. Live Purposefully. The Millennial Post.