How Kids Can Prosper Without Being at the Top of the Class
By Cynthia Kocialski, The Children’s Book Review
Published: February 24, 2012
Parents always have high hopes their children will have a bright future. New parents hear it all the time from relatives and strangers, “One day, he’s going to be President” or “She’ll be so smart, she’ll be a brilliant surgeon.” Parents don’t really believe it, but somewhere deep down they hope that, just maybe, it’s true.
What I’ve learned working with young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley is that they aren’t people who have an innate extreme talent. They aren’t the ones with the highest I.Q.s or the ones with the most creativity. It’s led me to the belief that the average student can be very successful in the world. Success requires talents that are simply good enough, not extreme. More importantly, it’s the combination of talents and skills that make a person succeed.
Unintentionally, the school system gives children the impression that brainpower and top grades is what it takes to be successful. That’s the way to the top of the class, but not to success after school. If school grades alone made the difference, we wouldn’t see college drop outs being billionaires. The alumni of the top schools would head the biggest and most successful corporations, and that’s not true either. Nor is it mastering what’s taught in school. Every veterinarian receives similar training in school, yet some have thriving practices and others don’t.
What makes the big difference isn’t what’s taught in school. In developed countries, every citizen is afforded an education and higher education is accessible to all. School passes on the wealth of human knowledge to the next generation. Knowledge isn’t enough for success. People, like products of a company, need to be differentiated. Success demands they stand out from the crowd. If education is available to all then education becomes a baseline. It is not what separates those that flourish from those that don’t. If not education, then what more are the keys to success? The keys are secondary skills and sometimes it is simply a new perspective.
Every school child has heard the expression, “Good things come to those that wait”. Patience may be a virtue, but good things don’t come to those that wait when there isn’t enough for everyone. When it comes to promotions and rewards, only a few receive the good things. A better version of this saying would be, “Good things come to those that wait, better things come to those that ask, and the best things come to those that go out and get what they want.”
Another school yard expression, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that matters”. Would you hire a lawyer who has lost all his cases, but tried his best? Would you engage a doctor that never cures any of her patients of their ills? Winning does matter. Effort and reward are said to go hand in hand, one follows the other, or does it? The middleman is missing. It’s not effort that creates the reward. It’s the achievement that results from the effort. Without accomplishing a goal, there is no reward regardless of the amount of effort.
To be successful, one must compete with their peers. Oftentimes, this is one skill absent from first time entrepreneurs. Few children learn how to compete. They’ve never learned that when you step onto the playing field, you had better have the intent to win. They’ve never learned that sometimes you have to live in the moment. That when you are swimming in a race, your entire world is that lane; there isn’t a thought of the party or anything else later in the day. They haven’t learned to perform under pressure. They haven’t learned how to build a team or how an effective team functions. Every investor believes the success of a new business has little to do with the product or technology, it all hinges upon the team.
These secondary skills and talents are crucial to success. They are much harder to acquire than just knowledge. It’s these little things that can make a huge difference. Success doesn’t require one extreme talent, but a combination of skills. This is the reason why the average child can prosper without being at the top of the class.
About the Author
Cynthia Kocialski is the founder of three tech start-up companies. In the past 15 years, she has been involved in dozens of start-ups. Cynthia writes the Start-up Entrepreneurs’ Blog www.cynthiakocialski.com. Cynthia has written the book, “Out of the Classroom Lessons in Success: How to Prosper Without Being at the Top of the Class.” The book serves up tips, insight, and wisdom to enable young adults and parents of kids to know what it will take to forge a successful career, no matter what their academic achievement. Like Out of the Classroom Lessons in Success on Facebook.
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