Aidan's Infinite Play 47 Why I'm No Longer A Straight-A Student (And Why You Don't Want to Be One)

Aidan's Infinite Play 47 Why I'm No Longer A Straight-A Student (And Why You Don't Want to Be One)
Photo by Compare Fibre / Unsplash

I have intentionally gone from getting straight A's to B's.

I graduated Valedictorian of my High School class, and went to my dream school, Cornell, getting straight A's throughout it.

No longer.

In this article, I'm going to explain why you might want to make the same decision this school semester.

There are 3 main reasons I stopped aiming for straight A's:

  • πŸ«—1. Aiming For Straight A's Embeds A Scarcity Mindset
  • πŸ’”2. Aiming For Straight A's Destroys Intrinsic Motivation
  • πŸͺ3. Aiming For Straight A's Makes You A Cookie Cutter Student

Let's dive in...

Let's start with who I'm not talking to.

For anyone looking to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or lawyerdoctorengineer, ignore what I'm saying. These highly competitive jobs require rock-solid grades to get into good schools.

For everyone else:

πŸ«—1. Aiming For Straight A's Embeds A Scarcity Mindset

In many classes, getting good grades requires someone else to get a bad grade.

That's because a lot of classes in school are curved, meaning your grade is better the worse other students do. What does this cause? Curved grades embed a scarcity mindset in students.

I was taught to believe resources are scarce; other students can't be trusted.

I was getting help with some statistics problems during TA office hours when another student asked me for help. After answering their question, they asked me, "wait, are you a TA?" When I said no, they responded with, "then why did you help me?"

Then why did you help me...

Of course, in many places in the world, a scarcity mindset is advantageous.

But as I argue in other pieces of content, those who will thrive in the coming creator economy are the most giving. In other words, people with an abundance mindset. People that give freely, paradoxically get more than those that only take.

Unfortunately, this isn't the mindset we are taught to ingrain in school.

πŸ’”2. Aiming For Straight A's Destroys Intrinsic Motivation

Getting good grades pushes you to learn only what will be on the test because that's all that counts.

This means spending tons of time studying the textbook, the lecture slides, and the readings. What's not pushed for? Learning outside of the class.

Grades don't encourage you to explore your curiosities.

But in a world that is changing faster than ever before with the Internet and AI, its intrinsic learners who will keep up with the times.

I felt this loss of intrinsic motivation first hand:

As a kid, I consumed books, spending hours every night reading before bed. I read Harry Potter, Fabelhaven, Deltora Quest, and more. But a I got into middle and high school, my reading habit stopped.

Because I wanted to get straight A's, I saw it a "wasted time."

Most students aiming to get straight A's are learning the same things as each other.

This makes them cookie-cutter students, cookie-cutter versions of everyone else aiming for straight A's. The problem: In a world with AI and the Internet, your unique personality, background, interests, and skills differentiate you from everyone else.

School is still built on an industrial-era model; it's trying to make you into the perfect factory worker.

What did I do with this realization:

Understanding these three problems with aiming for straight A's, I intentionally decided to aim for B's. I'm not looking to become a lawyer, doctor, or engineer. But I don't want to leave school either.

I still love many aspects of the traditional schooling system:

  • I get 4+ years to explore my identity without the societal pressure to do regular adult things
  • I'm surrounded by other young adults
  • I have access to tons of clubs
  • The Cornell dining hall food is really good (okay that one might not be the best reason but you get what I'm saying)

So the solution for me isn't to leave college.

Instead I'm trying to build the most important skill in the digital age: love for learning.

I'm interested in so many things, gamification, Obsidian PKM, memory, Psychology, content creation, and more. I can follow these interests only because I don't aim for straight A's. But I don't know how to tie these interests into a standard job.

Maybe I never will.

Maybe there's comfort in taking the standard path, aiming for those straight A's like a good boy. I'll admit, there is fear and pain from seeing those grades you cared so much about go down.

But that's no longer me.


3 reasons I intentionally went from straight A's to B's:

  • πŸ«—1. Aiming For Straight A's Embeds A Scarcity Mindset
  • πŸ’”2. Aiming For Straight A's Destroys Intrinsic Motivation
  • πŸͺ3. Aiming For Straight A's Makes You A Cookie Cutter Student

Here's what I would like to share this week.

πŸ“ΈNews From The Channel!

πŸ“ΊLatest On De YouTube - 7 ChatGPT Prompts To Supercharge Student Notetaking In Obsidian: ChatGPT is one of the most powerful thinking tools for students on the planet... If you know how to prompt it correctly. In this video, I share 7 ChatGPT prompts to supercharge your student notetaking in Obsidian.

πŸŽ™οΈLatest On De Podcast - E25 Dr. Oakley How To Supercharge Your School Learning: Dr. Oakley has a diverse background in linguistics going into military service after high school before coming back to get her Ph.D. in engineering. At a young age, she believed she couldn't learn math, but applying active studying techniques and learning how to learn overcame her ambivalence. Using her story and knowledge, she teaches the popular course, Learning How To Learn, and has written many books on learning, including A Mind For Numbers, Mindshift, and Learn Like A Pro.

In this podcast, you will learn the following:

  • The mistake most students make learning for school
  • Highest leverage studying techniques

πŸ’‘My Best Insights:

πŸ“–Book - The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England: A standalone novel from Brandon Sanderson that explores the journey of a dimension travelling wizard with amnesia. Long time readers know I love Brandon Sanderson's work like the Mistborn series and The Stormlight Archives. This book doesn't fail to disappoint.

πŸŽ™οΈPodcast - Dr. Maya Shenkar How To Shape Your Identity And Goals: One of my favorite insights form this podcast is we should define our identity by what we value rather than what we do. What we do can be inhibited by circumstances. But we can always continue to practice what we value.

πŸ“ΊYouTube Video - Niche Down Is Terrible Advice (For Smart People): I have been consuming a lot of Dan Koe's content recently and really resonating with it. In this video, he explains how the common advice to stay super niched in content creation could actually be terrible advice. The best creators have made THEMSELVES the niche through publicly showcasing their journey towards self actualization online. He also makes a case for why everyone should be creating content online even if they don't intend to make a business out of it.

✨Quote Of The Week - "Never let school interfere with your education" - Mark Twain