Why “C students” run the world.

“The ‘C’ students run the world.”

Harry Truman

It’s easy to understand why students that get bad grades don’t run the world. They often are at disadvantages in some way, or they lack commitment or they have other issues in their lives.

It’s not so easy to understand why the best students seem to run the world less often then the average students do. I’d like to take a stab at it though.

First, students that get perfect grades become used to NOT failing. It’s comfortable to do things perfectly, to be praised and to know exactly what you are doing. Ask any business owner, writer, or creative if they knew EXACTLY what they were doing along the way, the answer will almost always be a resounding, “No.” The ones that say they did are most likely forgetting the time period where they failed along the way learning how to do what needs to be done. In short, perfection is the pursuit of only the simplest tasks. After all, how do you manage your lifetime finances perfectly? How do you build the Tesla Automotive Company perfectly? How do you represent a constituency perfectly? There’s not a possible measurement to say it can be done at all. However, school teaches students that tasks should be measured. Which often means working on simpler problems where that’s possible. This is what jobs are. The best jobs end up with the best students, and they get paid well, so it’s not worth the risk to start something of their own as much.

Second, there are people with great aptitude that get average grades because they lack the patience for academia or even teach themselves. I’ve done significant studying on personality types and if you don’t fall into the sentinels group, which is about half the population, then school in its traditional format likely isn’t for you. That means that likely people that understand the subjects may not apply themselves to do their homework. Or they may not care to learn it at all if they don’t see how it relates to them, even though they have the potential to ace it if they tried. There are so many issues with the topics in standard curriculums, learning primarily through lectures, managing energy levels of students appropriately, and a whole host of other issues.

The explorer group are restless. They need to be in the moment, working things out for themselves. Building things. Auto shop. All that sort of stuff.

The diplomat group are in their heads. They are daydreamers, while they might be in class, likely they are imagining something else and tuning out what’s happening in the lecture.

The analyst group can get trapped by wanting to find the most efficient or the best. So they never get started.

These are all generalities of course, and individuals still have their own identities, aspirations and can break the common pitfalls of the groups they fall into.

If you’re smart and capable and feeling frustrated that others get to tell you what to do much of the time, it’s possible you need to start taking some risks, trying the things that just might fail because without that, you’re going to be in for a long slog. Failure isn’t something to be ashamed of.

P.S. There is also the statistics that the majority of students are average and thus a bigger population has more chances to breakout that the smaller population of great students. However, these anecdotes are still things that I have observed with people around myself.