When I was in college, I obsessed over getting straight A’s, said Adam Grant. Now that I’m a professor, “I watch in dismay” when I see students joining the same “cult of perfectionism.” They think straight A’s will provide entrée to elite graduate schools and prestigious careers. The evidence, however, says otherwise. Research across industries shows that while there’s a modest correlation between grades and job performance the first year out of college, after a few years, the difference is “trivial.” Why? “Getting straight A’s requires conformity. Having an influential career demands originality.” While straight-A students are locked in their dorm rooms or library pursuing “meaningless perfection,” their peers are developing skills that aren’t captured by grades: “creativity, leadership, and teamwork skills and social, emotional, and political intelligence.” Real career success doesn’t come from “finding the right solution to a problem—it’s more about finding the right problem to solve.” In high school Steve Jobs pulled a 2.65 GPA, J.K. Rowling had a C average at Exeter, and Martin Luther King Jr. managed only one A in four years at Morehouse College. This tells us that “underachieving in school can prepare you to overachieve in life.”

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