Do grades matter?

My Life … My Career … My Decision 

In 1994, I was in Class X in City Montessori School, Lucknow Station Road branch. Every time my father saw me he had just one thing to say: “It is your Board year, your scores will be with you for the rest of your life – work hard and score at least 90%.” And it was not just my father, my mother, my uncles, my aunts, my grandfather … the whole universe seemed to be concerned with my high school marks. Till date I continue to love and respect each one of them, but as a young boy this love and respect was much higher. I believed them and I did work very hard. 

I started waking up at 3 AM so that I could study in peace. Getting high marks in Class X was my only mission in life and I gave all I had, to this goal. The board exams eventually happened and despite of all my efforts I ended up with a mere 79%. My parents covered up their sadness by claiming that my marks were the highest anyone had ever scored in my extended family but, I knew that they were unhappy. My unhappiness with myself was reinforced when my school decided that I was unworthy of being allowed to study (Physics, Chemistry, Maths) in Class XI. This literally meant the end of all meaning in my life. Cracking the IIT entrance exam is all I had ever dreamed of. I actually thought of ending my meaningless life as I had messed it up completely. 

A friend of mine who also got kicked out of the merit list, pointed out that our School had another branch where the cut offs were lower and, if I was accepted there I could still have a reason to live. I applied to our Gomtinagar branch and got through. On my first day in the new branch I met Suresh (name changed) who scored 96% in Class X and Mahesh (again name changed) who scored 82%, both of them were really kind and we became friends. Friendship actually meant nothing in Class XI except Hello on seeing each other since we all were focused on one mission – the IIT entrance examination. In the words of my father “God has allowed you the last opportunity of your life – if you waste this one then your life will be worthless.” I believed this too and suddenly the only thing I really cared about was mission IIT. In the middle of all this I managed to convince my father that cycling 32 kms everyday to my last school might have led to my poor performance and he should overstretch himself to buy me a Hero Puch so that I can focus on my preparation. 

Class XII finished with Suresh scoring 94% and landing up in IIT, Delhi. Mahesh scoring 85% and dropping a year for IIT preparation and myself with 76% and a decision to not even appear in the IIT entrance (how this happened is a story in itself and I will cover it later). We all went our separate paths and never stayed in touch. At 28 years of age, I was promoted to a Vice President in Citibank, London and out of curiosity I searched LinkedIn for Suresh and Mahesh. Suresh went ahead to do MBA from IIM Bangalore while Mahesh ended up with B Sc from Delhi University followed by MBA from Symbiosis Pune. Suresh was an Assistant Vice President in a Bank in Chennai and Mahesh was a Manager in a Private Company in Delhi. I looked out of the window next to my desk on the 14th floor of my office in Canary Wharf and asked the question “Do grades matter?” 

It is now 2017, exactly 23 years since my Class X board exams. Now, when I look back I do not remember a single time when I was ever asked about my Class X board exams. Maybe in form or two, they asked me if I had the cut-off of 60% but that is it. I am pretty sure at this moment of my life, that I would be doing exactly what I am doing irrespective of 98%, 55% or my hard earned 79%. I wonder if this is any different for any of contemporaries. On this topic I have two pieces of advice. To the parents – “Before pressuring your kids for high grades, please ask yourself how many times in your own life have you been asked for your grades.” To the students – “Do work hard for your grades but do not take them to heart, your grades will have zero correlation to your success in life. The only thing which will matter is how clear you are with whatever you wish to do for the rest of your life.” 

The LifePage Story has chapters from a book currently being written by Mr Kapil Rawat, Founder of LifePage.

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