Do Grades Determine Success?


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Do Grades Determine Success?

November 23, 2020

Video Games VS Good Grades

Do grades determine success? If you have good grades, are you guaranteed to be successful? If you have bad grades, are you guaranteed to not be successful?

Today, I want to tell you a story of a friend of mine I knew in high school. Back then, I cared a lot about grades and extracurriculars, but my friend didn’t really care about school. He didn’t enjoy school and thought it was a waste of time. He argued with his parents about schoolwork, clothes, video games and his social life. His parents put rules on him, which he’d naturally break. He played a lot of video games. Since he liked video games, he thought he should try becoming a computer programmer. So, he finished high school with a 3.0 GPA and was accepted into an in-state school studying computer engineering.

I went off to college and my friend went to a different college, but we kept in touch. He didn’t do so well in his classes. During most of college, he played a lot of video games and became one of the top gamers in the world in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (a very popular game at the time). While he was in school, he learned programming languages and found projects that he could work on for companies who needed some computer programming work to build the software for ideas that they had. But it took him 5 years to graduate from school and he earned about a 2.3 GPA.

I was worried for him. I didn’t know if he’d be able to find a job or accomplish anything. I had gotten a 3.6 GPA in business, and I was still having a hard time finding a job. What were his chances?

It turns out he had better chances than I thought. I mean, it wasn’t easy for him to find a job. He needed to get his resume revised by professionals, which took some time (apparently if you graduate with under a 3.0 GPA, then you just exclude the GPA entirely from your resume). Then, he submitted hundreds of applications to different computer programming positions and applied to 20 jobs a day. After 1 month of applying, he turned down a job offer because the pay was not satisfactory. After persistently applying for 2 months, he finally found a position for him making $70K. That was more than I was offered, and I had a 3.6 GPA. And even more, his job ended up being really easy for him, and he enjoyed the work.

My friend soon became the person that the company went to with their toughest coding projects because he finished the easy projects too quickly. Soon they promoted him, and after 2 years, a friend who knew his work at that company referred him as the best computer programmer in that company and got paid $100K/year at the new company. He now does the work of two full-time computer programmers because another programmer quit, and he was able to take over both roles because of his expertise. Who would have thought?

What Makes People Successful?

So, what determined my friend’s success? It definitely wasn’t his grades. He chose to spend his time playing video games, which showed him his love for computers. He focused on doing the things that he loved to do, which helped him to pick a career that matched who he was and what he enjoyed. He became successful in his career without good grades.

Similarly, a recent study found that  38% of billionaires graduate from elite schools, but about 30% didn’t go to college or it’s not recorded where they attended. Another 23% of billionaires attended college (but not an elite school), and it doesn’t say if they graduated. The fact that 30% didn’t go to college and even more didn’t go to an elite school means almost 1 out of 2 powerful people either didn’t go to college or went to just a regular college. That is a really high number.

Other rich and famous people weren’t all that great at school or left school as well (see here and here). Many didn’t get into the school they wanted (J.K. Rowling), didn’t achieve in every subject (Benedict Cumberbatch, Winston Churchill), were considered slow learners (Albert Einstein, Richard Branson), or dropped out of school when they understood who they were and what they were passionate about (Bill Bartmann, Steve Jobs, Drew Barrymore, Mark Zuckerberg). If you learn about these people, you know that they dedicated a lot of effort to becoming good at what they do now, but grades weren’t the determining factor. They chose to be successful.

Now am I telling you to dropout of school? No. I am not saying that going to college doesn’t help you. I am saying that attending college is not the only way to become successful. It is more important to understand yourself and understand what you enjoy doing the most. Grades may not be the best indicator of success.

3 Keys of Success

Through coaching over 4,000 high school and college students, we have found 3 keys to becoming successful in any area of life (programming, video games, sports, etc.):

  1. Find what you love and are good at
  2. Don’t wait, start doing it
  3. Put everything you have into it

So… do what you love and comes easy to you. Start now and put everything you have into it, and you can become successful! You can be successful even if you don’t go to college or to an elite school. I believe in you and your potential!

Feel free to comment about another success story you’ve heard about or even your own success story by sending me an email (see contact info below).

About the Author

Chuck Zulanas is Vice President of Loveland Logistics and co-founder of The Leadership Society of Arizona. Chuck is co-host of the Logic and Life Coaching Podcast and author of “Why You Should Keep The Commandments”.

In the past, Chuck has worked as a consultant on multi-million dollar projects with the Performance Based Studies Research Group and MSS Business Transformation Advisory.

Chuck was involved in over 60 different clubs, organizations and activities during high school and college. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.