The link between successful people and getting bad grades at school is often exaggerated.
Albert Einstein actually got very good grades through most of his schooling years (he did struggle learning French though). Warren Buffet got a Master of Science in economics at Columbia University and many schools around the world are starting to run entrepreneur courses for those wanting to develop their business skills.
However, there are also many people who have succeeded in business by going out into the real world instead. They think outside the box, take risks, and build their knowledge through practical experience. And while most institutions embrace these ideas, they’re bogged down by conflicting rules and guidelines that limit student’s freedom.
Here are some of reasons why entrepreneurs don’t thrive in the conventional education system.
1. They Want to Be Different
As a student, you’re expected to do the same things as everyone else. Attend the same classes, participate in the same activities and take the same exams. But in the world of business, being different is sometimes the only way to capitalise to succeed.
Entrepreneurs have a knack for coming up with solutions to problems that people aren’t aware of. As opposed to getting a nice grade on their report card – this satisfaction can be much more rewarding for some people.
2. They Have Their Own Definition of Success
In school, you attend classes, do assignments and take exams, all in an attempt to earn good grades. What you do with the knowledge you’ve gained afterwards is entirely up to you.
However, if you’re the kind of person who aspires to use their skills and knowledge for other purposes, the desire to get good grades may pale in comparison to the allure of starting a successful enterprise.
3. They Yearn for Independence
If you’re studying a creative practice in school, you’re always under the guidance of an instructor leading you on the ‘right’ path. Not only that, but you’re expected to do assignments, in-class tasks and exams on topics that carry no value outside of school. This process can be de-motivating… even if you’re studying a subject that genuinely interests you.
As an entrepreneur, you have the freedom to pick and choose the information that best suits your goals. Plus, you get to see the results on a much wider scale than a conventional school setting.
4. They Love Learning, But Hate the School
For most entrepreneurs, learning is a lifelong journey, not something that only happens in the classroom. In today’s world, you can learn from taking online courses, reading e-books, listening to audiobooks and podcasts. You can even learn a whole new trade from watching YouTube videos.
With so many options that fall outside the conventional school system, it’s no wonder many creative entrepreneurs forge their own path to gain knowledge.
5. They Prefer Practical Experience Over Theory
Unless you’re undertaking a job placement or studying at a trade-school, you’re probably learning from textbooks.
Studying real-life and hypothetical scenarios is crucial to developing your knowledge. However, some entrepreneurs simply cannot wait that long to utilise their skills in the real world.
6. They Learn From Failing
When you get a bad grade in school, you either care enough to put more effort in next time, or you simply ‘go through the motions’ until you graduate. In the world of business, the consequences of failing is much higher… and being mediocre won’t get you very far.
It’s true that many successful entrepreneurs failed in starting their first business. It’s these major setbacks that pushed them harder to succeed – and without any loss of enthusiasm too.
7. They Don’t Like Copying Other People
Innovation drives industries to explore new ideas, reach new audiences and create competition in the marketplace.
In school, most of your time is spent learning from others. While it’s important to learn the rules before you break them, some people can reach this stage faster than others. And depending on the kind of institution you attend, you may never get the chance to explore your own ideas until you’ve entered the real world.
8. They Want to Build Their Portfolio
Most people outside of school will never ask you about your grades. And many entrepreneurs would rather be developing their folio than satisfying a report card.
These people understand the importance of building new relationships, starting new endeavours and putting in the hours to complete projects they’re proud to showcase to others.
If you have nothing to show for your portfolio other than a bachelor’s degree or high GPA, you risk being overshadowed by someone with the same qualifications, but more experience in the real world.
9. They Want Better Mentors
In academia, your exposure to good mentors is mostly limited to the classroom. If you’re in a class with a lousy or uninspiring teacher – well, then you’re out of luck.
Those who want to learn from the best will go out there to find inspiration. If that means stepping out of the school system to find it, they’re probably going to go ahead do it.
10. They Know How to Live Outside the System
In Professor Karen Arnold’s book, Lives of Promise: What Becomes of High School Valedictorians, 15 past students are interviewed and studied over a 14-year period.
While these students were the best and brightest of the class, Arnold reveals that, "They're extremely well rounded and successful, personally and professionally… but they've never been devoted to a single area in which they put all their passion.”
Arnold also states that many who never graduated college went on to pursue ambitious careers, like being a poet or social justice activist.
This case study is not a definitive argument against doing well in school. However, it does highlight the limitations of a learning culture that may not be doing enough to prepare students for life outside the schoolyard.