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Success and Failure

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The road to riches does not always run through the class room.

Usain Bolt developed his athletic ability instead of pursuing higher education.

So did most professional football stars.

Many artists, musicians, craftsmen as well as people in other fields have also done extremely well by developing skills they learned outside school.

That opening statement also holds true for businessmen and entrepreneurs… at least to the extent that many were nowhere near the top of their class.

Okay, the people who started Apple Computers and Microsoft probably paid attention while they were in school because they did quite well while they were there, but neither Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates bothered to finish their university degrees.

Virgin’s Richard Branson, meanwhile, never even thought about going to college. As a matter of fact, he freely admits he was a poor student.

All of those billionaires, however, knew how to take advantage of opportunities when they saw them, and they were smart enough to recognise when they had had enough formal education.

That situation reminds me of a saying financial advisor Robert Kiyosaki likes to use in his motivational speeches.

“There are three kinds of students,” he says, “A students, B students and C students. B students get jobs working for the government and A students wind up working for C students.”

Obviously that doesn’t happen all the time but it does often enough to support Kiyosaki’s main point, which is: the open-minded intelligence required to be a successful entrepreneur is not always rewarded in school.

I heard another story the other day that makes me think some creative thinkers may even work things to their advantage by failing.

The tale involves a student my daughter once worked with in an English pub.

He spent his past British university year studying abroad in Spain.

The arrangement was the grades would not count towards his degree but his expenses would be covered by a European Community grant… as long as he achieved passing grades.

If he didn’t, he or his family would have to foot the bill.

As it turned out, he failed one class, so his parents have booked him on a flight back to Spain in June to re-sit the exam.

Amazingly, about 10 of his mates from England and Germany that were on the same programme also failed that class so they will all be re-sitting the exam.

Then they will have a reunion party for a week at their parents’ expense.

That could be a coincidence, but I really don’t think so.

Please don’t get me wrong; I don’t approve of such behaviour and certainly don’t want others to act that way, but I have to admit it is quite clever.

The thing is, doing something like that would never occur to future civil servants or students who were obsessed with chasing high grades.

And that’s pretty much my point today; it’s fine for students to try to get the best grades they possibly can, but at the end of the day good report cards and university degrees are just pieces of paper.

They are good things to have, but they are not the only road to success