Confessions of a Recovering B Player

I was a terrible student.

And by terrible I mean, really bad.

So bad, in fact, that when applying to colleges I was put on the wait list of a school who literally accepted anyone with a pulse.

After some back and forth with the admissions office we agreed that they would give me a test run during a summer semester that year and that if I got a 3.0 GPA or higher, they would let me stay. I shipped off to Rexburg, ID that summer and returned with a 3.1 GPA. I was in!

Once the offer was extended to attend the school in the fall, I proceeded to return to my old ways, finishing my final semester with a 1.8 GPA.

Something about my relationship with school wasn’t working. I was self-ware enough to realize that I was a real B player. So I pushed pause, dropped out and took a few years off.

When I returned to school, I made the Dean’s list that first semester back and every semester after. Something had changed. And it wasn’t the school work. I was completing the same kinds of assignments, taking the same kinds of tests and surrounded by a similar group of friends.

But I had changed. I was at a different place in life than I was when I’d entered my freshman year. I had a different outlook on life and a different set of goals I wanted to achieve. I’d learned a bit more about who I was and how I worked best. And the results and academic accolades followed.

I caught up recently with a former employee of a company we funded a few years ago. Back then he was kind of a disaster. The quality of his work was poor and he consistently failed to deliver. A real B player. After a few months with the company he was fired.

Years later, he’s a team leader and a thought leader in his chosen field. To anyone from the outside looking in, he would be considered an A player. But trust me when I say, it wasn’t long ago that he was not.

I thought about him, and my own experience when reading @ev’s piece last week conceptualizing startup advice, specifically the piece where he discusses the conventional wisdom of hiring only A players:

How about the least-controversial and most common advice ever given: “Only hire A players.” Here’s when that doesn’t apply: When you can’t hire A players. The truth is, A players aren’t available to most companies. If these companies stuck to the hire-only-A-players rule, they’d never hire anyone. Sometimes you have to get by with B players. That sucks, but here’s the thing: It doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. There a many examples of those who have, despite not being the absolute best in their field.

He’s right. There are times when hiring B players is your only option. And sometimes it does work out.

And sometimes, in my case and the case of my friend, B players just need a fresh start and some perspective to become A players.

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