Until I was in my very late thirties If someone had asked me about my education and what I was like in school growing up, I would have laughed and told them that I was a failure. Now I think differently.
I think looking back that school failed ME. Grades were simply not the measure of my intelligence or abilities. If they had been I would be challenged to believe on paper that the poor grades (F, D, C-, C+) somehow told the larger story of who I am. Inside I am vibrant, imaginative, kind, and lovable. I have a great work ethic, and a vision and instinct (when in my zone) that allow me to see an opportunity, act when I am inspired, and speak my truth (the latter more recently). I wish that I’d been taught instead the value of developing and honing skills of self- reflection. How to learn, apply, and retain information as an individual and how to deepen my learned experiences through INSIGHTS (AKA: REVELATIONS). Grades can’t tell the more important and essential story which is that knowledge ≠ wisdom. I think wisdom is gained through other experiences such as:
How I treat someone when the going gets tough?
Who I am when the world, community, friends or family do not agree with my decisions or perspective?
How I behave when I am angry or sad?
How I clean up my messes in life and take responsibility for my mistakes?
How I act when I am successful?
How I communicate toward others and how often and honor and respect their thoughts, idea’s and feelings?
How willing I am to be vulnerable, exposed, and afraid?
How willing I am to own my own greatness, call my own shots, and live from a place of truth- no matter what the outcome?
After college I held my degree for a few minutes in my hands, and since that time I’ve never really laid eyes on it again. Who it mattered to, I’m not really sure… but somehow I got that it mattered. Since that time no one has challenged that I’ve had an education. They simply assumed I did, and I imagine they assumed I’d had one of the best ( and I have). What did “Bachelor of Arts” degree really mean to them- or to anyone? Most people I talk to have no idea what they learned in college academically. For all I know employers, colleagues and clients made up their own assumptions about what degree I earned. No one has ever asked and if they did I’d tell them I made it through my entire school experience and four years of college just by the hair of my chinny chin chin. What a waste of time all those years comparing my personal triumphs, trials and accomplishments to a grading system that considered my very real and significant developments and dignity not.
I never once felt inferior since graduating- certainly not to my friends with pedigree’s such as Boston College, Yale, and Columbia, ( I make it up that I even had those friends, ha, I might have- It just never mattered for me to ask, nor have I been asked!) It’s amazing how much “meaning” we attach as a society to grades and status- oh what an illusion. Throughout my career and my life I have continued to “pass” and learn and grow. My education is never “finished”, the difference now is I do not hold myself to anyone else’s standard but my own, and I’ve fired myself from self judgement, and instead gathered all of the iterations of myself to myself and held them close and safe to tell them: ”we are as successful as our failures have been (A+) and that experiencing and allowing failure has proven to be the biggest accomplishment in our collective lives”.
Seth Godin is one of my favorite thought leaders (thought marketers) in the world. I look for his daily emails/ blog posts because they really make me stop and think. He listens to his own voice and speaks from his heart and head and most importantly from his failure. This morning his post was short and powerful… this is what he said:
What (people) want
What do customers, friends, the socially networked, users, neighbors, classmates, servers, administrators, employees… maybe even brands… want?
do what I say
miss me if I’m gone
I really got that. The measures we are brought up believing as most important are, in the grande scheme of things, nothing more than the least. At the end of the day, all we really want as individuals striving toward wisdom is to love, be loved, be acknowledged, be seen, touched, discovered, heard and cherished. Grades are mostly irrelevant.