The young man had just finished his graduation; he was in the bottom quartile of his class, had nil chances of making it to a business school of any repute and, with his academic record, wouldn’t get past the initial screening by HR.
I met the son a few days later. He turned out to be an agreeable sort, not academically inclined but otherwise as aware of the ways of the world as one can be at 20. Over a beer he opened up, “Even if I get a job, I will always be reporting to an engineer or an MBA of my age, and it will be difficult for me to grow”. A fair point, though not necessarily a correct one. Many a graduate with a poor academic record has excelled in the corporate world.
His ambition, he explained, was to have his own business. What business, I enquired? He had no idea but he was not short of confidence or ideas. I reported to the conversation to the father, suggested that he let his son be for a while, and shortly afterwards moved to Dubai in pursuit of own dreams.
I ran into the young man a few years ago, now a father of two kids of his own. What does he do? Owns and runs a flourishing BPO business transcribing medical records for Doctors in USA, and has about 100 people working for him.
Over the years I have come across many such cases; a lackluster college record, difficulty in landing a job, a long period of struggle and finally success as an entrepreneur or creative artist.
It makes me wonder: are entrepreneurial/creative success and academic excellence inversely correlated? Certainly at the very top (the richest or most successful performing artists), the evidence is skewed in favor of college dropouts.
Sir Ken Robinson, a creativity expert, has long argued that our education system is deeply flawed. You have probably heard his famous talk on how education is killing creativity, but here it is in case you haven’t come across it.