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Success
Published: March 10, 2017

Why People Who Succeed At School Don't Always Succeed In Life

When we were small, we were taught that if we wanted to be successful, we had to study hard and get good results at school. Getting straight “A”s had to be our goal if we wanted to succeed in life. But in reality, how many straight A students do you know become really successful as they grow up? The good boys and good girls who were very disciplined at school, submitting all their assignments on time and getting good results in exams may just end up doing a job they don’t like despite the fact that they can make money out of it. Why is it like that? Weren’t we taught that to become successful, we’re supposed to study hard and be good at school?

What you need for a good and successful life is not really learned at school.

I’m not discouraging anyone to give up studying; there’re subjects such as languages, simple maths, music and physical education which are useful for us. What I’m trying to say is that the school curriculum is not perfect.There’re a lot of things which are essential to life missing in the curriculum. And there’re many bad habits schools inculcate:1

They want us to put up our hands and wait to be chosen. They want us to keep asking other people for permission.They teach us to deliver on, rather than change, expectations.They teach us to redeploy ideas rather than originate them.They teach us to expect that people in authority know – rather than letting us imagine that – in rather inspiring ways – no one is really on top of what’s going on.They teach us to trust that they have our largest, best, life-long interests at heart; without letting on that they are merely interested in our achievements

Basically, to succeed at school, you need to be obedient, and whether you’re good or not very much depends on the teachers’ expectations. And instead of helping students to understand why they should do certain things, teachers (or the school system) simply force students to follow the rules, leaving students no room for originality and critical thinking.But life doesn’t work like this in reality.To succeed in life, you need to think out of the box instead of doing what everyone else’s doing. And there’re many aspects to take care of aside from the school subjects, for example, what to do to be a happy person; how to maintain a healthy relationship; how to work smart; and what to do to lead a meaningful life etc.

Doing bad at school doesn’t make you a failure (and it’s supported by statistics).

While it’s a fact that anyone who has at least a high school diploma has more opportunities because one needs to have some fundamental knowledge and skills; statistics show that people who failed at school didn’t end up failing in life.You may have already known that Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and Jim Carey etc. didn’t do too well at school or are school dropouts.2 In fact, there’re a lot more than just the “big names” who are successful in life without completing school.According to Current Biography Yearbook (editions 1959-2005 & 2007), out of all the successful people, at least 768 of them are school dropouts and they’re successful in different fields.3

  • Billionaires: 26
  • Nobel Prize Winners: 10 (6 Literature, 2 Peace, 1 Physics, 1 Chemistry)
  • Oscar Winners: 63
  • Oscar Nominees: 105 (includes above)
  • Best-Selling Authors: 56
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients (U.S.’s highest civilian honor): 25
  • Congressional Gold Medal recipients (U.S.): 12
  • Knighthoods: 28
  • and the list goes on…

You can check out the complete list of successful people here.Now that you understand the difference between doing good at school and doing good in life, what can you do about this?

Life is a really long lesson, so long that you can’t define a person’s success by just one section of it.

If you’ve already finished school, keep learning because what you learned at school will never be enough to lead a great life.If you’re still studying, whether you’re good or bad at school, don’t take your school results too seriously. Never blindly believe what you’ve been told about getting good grades is the only way to be successful, or that following rules is always for the best of you. But also don’t break the rules unless you’ve learned and understood the rationale behind. In short, just don’t stop thinking.If you’re a parent or a teacher, don’t just focus on the grades the children get. Try to discover their potentials and unleash their talents, that’s how they build confidence and eventually lead a successful life.

This article is inspired by The School of Life’s Success at School vs Success in Life. Check out their video here.

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