'C' Students More Successful than 'A' Students

'C' students, research has shown, become the bosses of the 'A' students, run the world, and bounce back faster from setbacks.

The success of 'C' students happens mostly because they were learning about the world and how to manage it when the 'A' students were tethered to their books. 'C' students competed for class office, put in plenty of time at the college newspaper, started advocacy organizations, worked part time, fell in love too often, and engaged in other activities.

All that provided direct insight into what makes people tick, how the world really operates, and strategies for recovering from a defeat.

Former chief executive officer of Home Depot and head of Cererbus Operating and Advisory Company Robert Nardelli was a so-so student. Where he put his energy was in making his mark in organizations such as the Boy Scouts. After he wasn't appointed chief executive officer of GE, he sure nailed down other big jobs.

President John F. Kennedy was no brain, but his golden gut told him to surround himself with those who were (note: they worked for him). And you know how lackluster a student President George W. Bush had been. One-term president Jimmy Carter was the brain.

So, how does this information help your career? Here are some applications:

  • The fields demanding book smarts, ranging from law to college teaching, are shrinking. Do well enough in your courses to learn what you need to. The important thing is to make contacts for your internships and job search. Hands-on experience trumps book learnin'.
  • Be wary of going to work or joining in a start-up where scores from standardized tests and academic grades are valued. Likely, they are out of touch. The new normal is all about street smarts.
  • Had you been an 'A' student, get over it. Learn to learn from more direct ways such as observation and then connecting the dots on your own. Connect those dots in an innovative way and you could become very successful.
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