Why Entrepreneur Students Shouldn’t Get A’s

In April I was a panelist for LASO’s Annual Latino Conference. At one point in the panel discussion there came a cliche but valuable question from the moderator — “what’s the one thing that you feel students MUST do before graduating college?”

There was somewhat of a consensus on “get a high GPA.”

Then, I answered. But it wasn’t until after the panel that I had what I would consider a more interesting idea. And, just like most ideas I think would earn a high-five from Einstein, this strange one surfaced while I was parking my car.

While “have a rock solid GPA” is justified advice for the career minded students (the hopeful accountants, analysts, and managers of the world), I don’t think it applies as solidly to entrepreneur-minded students and those students whose future positions are justified by one thing — results. If that’s you, then what makes sense is to be an entrepreneur while in college, and to pull time away from the pursuit of an A to do it.

Why I say this?

  • Because stretching a B to an A might mean studying an extra who-knows-how-many hours. Hours you could spend validating your list of ideas.
  • It means caring too much about what’s debatably right, instead of something new for the world. The prior can at best get you an A, the latter can at best get you….something like Facebook.
  • Constant striving for an A means you’re probably conditioning yourself to place too much emphasis on one of the greatest vanity metrics of all time — the GPA.
  • Getting an incredible GPA means, arguably, that you’ve mastered a rubric and the art of thinking “inside” the box. Entrepreneurship is not that.
  • You can’t point to an “A” and say “look at that, I built that (or burned it to the ground trying), and this is what I learned from it.”
  • All in all, an A is more deniable, more sort-able, and more questionable than the timeless lessons you’ll get from trying your hand at something great.

This might be debatable and exceptions might apply to all sorts of scenarios, but my point at its broadest is “don’t let school get too much in the way of your education in entrepreneurship.” Steal back some time from those A’s.

Pour Conclure: Two Mentions

For entrepreneurs, artists, and tinkerers…curiosity matters more.

“Get passing grades and follow voraciously your curiosity on the side instead of competing in school. In the end what matters is your curiosity, nothing else. And read nothing that doesn’t interest you but interests someone else -Nassim Taleb, Author of Black Swan

In many cases, school can be a memorization contest without regard to “is this accurate enough to memorize, or even worth memorizing?” Fighting extra hard to get the right answers today may mean that all you end up with are hard-fought-for wrong answers of next year.

“Facts change all the time. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly. Meat used to be good for you, then bad to eat, then good again; now it’s a matter of opinion. The age at which women are told to get mammograms has increased. We used to think that the Earth was the center of the universe, now our planet has since been demoted. I have no idea any longer whether red wine is good for me..[….].. My father, a dermatologist, told me about a multiple-choice exam he took in medical school that included the same question two years in a row. The answer choices remained exactly the same, but one year the answer was one choice and the next year it was a different one. -Samuel Arbesman, Author of Half Life of Facts