Why GPA is overrated

Vital LeadershipAdversity, Resilience, Students, Tips for ParentsLeave a Comment

It’s grade card time. Ask any HS student how the school year went, and they will, often, refer to their GPA. GRADES are their measure of success.

And parents usually agree. Society has brainwashed us all that grades determine college options and, therefore, the future. In reality, success is far more than any academic marker. Senator John McCain finished No. 894 of 899 at the Naval Academy, and former president George H. W. Bush failed chemistry in high school.

So, maybe grades don’t matter as much as we think.

The BEST indicator of success this past semester probably happened WITHIN the semester, after a bad test or getting cut from a team. A person’s response to adversity will be a far better indicator of success than final grades.

In life, sports, relationships, & work, it’s the responses that serve us. When a player misses a game-winning shot, how do they respond? When a printer is faced with a broken press at deadline, how does he respond? When a teenager gets caught in a lie, how do they respond? When a salesman loses a deal at the last minute, how does he respond? When a home remodel project doesn’t turn out the way it was planned, how does the designer respond?

Don’t we look up to those who are able to face adversity yet thrive anyway? Don’t we value people who can find solutions instead of emit negativity?

Most people panic when failure makes an appearance in life – and some avoid failure by keeping life easy and avoiding challenges. Parents choose this route when they mow down all obstacles in their child’s life. Sad, but true, because, when failure happens, a common reaction is to place blame – on someone else, on a situation, on a lack of sleep, on a lack of opportunity, on a teacher….

Instead, failure should BUILD us!!!! Great ones get this. Retired US Women’s National Soccer team star Abby Wambach recently said in a commencement address:

“Here’s something the best athletes understand, but seems like a harder concept for non-athletes to grasp. Non-athletes don’t know what to do with the gift of failure. So they hide it, pretend it never happened, reject it outright, and they end up wasting it.

Listen: Failure is not something to be ashamed of, it’s something to be powered by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel.

When I was on the youth national team, only dreaming of playing alongside Mia Hamm… I had the opportunity to visit the national team’s locker room. The thing that struck me most wasn’t my heroes’ grass stained cleats, or their names and numbers hanging above their lockers. It was a picture. It was a picture that someone had taped next to the door, so that it would be the last thing every player saw before she headed out to the training pitch. You might guess it was a picture of their last big win, or of them standing on a podium accepting gold medals. But it wasn’t. It was a picture of their long time rival, the Norwegian national team celebrating after having just beaten the USA in the 1995 World Cup.

In that locker room I learned that in order to become my very best — on the pitch and off — I’d need to spend my life letting the feelings and lessons of failure transform into my power. Failure is fuel. Fuel is power.”

So, the real grade card didn’t come last week, it came in March, when the test score at the top of the page read: “F.” I want to recruit/hire/train the student who took responsibility for the grade, studied harder, tapped resources and didn’t waste the failure. That person may just be president some day.

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