💰Getting Straight A's Might Keep You Poor And Depressed

💰Getting Straight A's Might Keep You Poor And Depressed
Photo by Shail Sharma / Unsplash

Getting straight A's might keep you poor and depressed.

So many students I know have spent four years studying in the library, attending classes, and surviving on ramen noodles from the local K-mart... All to get straight A's. But then they enter the real world and struggle to find a high-paying job.

Even if they get a job, most people aren't fulfilled working in an office space as a spreadsheet warrior.

I recently realized the issue with this default path strategy.

A few months ago, I was talking to the creator of The Rise Productive YouTube Channel, Demetri. Before this conversation, I still believed making money was a matter of trading your time. Then, somehow, we started talking about how much money he was making in passive income as a creator. At 25 years old, he told me he had 8 million dollars in the bank. I was flabbergasted.

So I asked him how he did it...

Simple, he said, "I gave away free information online by building a personal brand and sold the implementation."

This statement broke everything I was taught about succeeding in life.

As a kid, I was told to get straight A's so I could go to a great college, get a great job to raise a family, retire, and do all the things you should have been doing at 20 but are too old to do at 60. Not knowing better, most of us adopt this goal hierarchy.

But as I talked to Demetri, I realized this classic goal hierarchy no longer works.

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

For most of my life I have aimed for straight A's. I graduated Valedictorian of my High School class and went to my dream school, Cornell.

No longer.

To understand why, let's dive into the 5 reasons getting straight A's might keep you poor and depressed:

💰1. Traditional Schooling Doesn't Teach You The Skills Required To Succeed In The Digital Age

💔2. Aiming For Straight A's Destroys Intrinsic Motivation

🍪3. Aiming For Straight A's Makes You A Cookie Cutter Student

💸4. Having A Degree Is No Longer As Valuable An Asset

🫗5. Aiming For Straight A's Embeds A Scarcity Mindset

By the end of this article, you'll know why aiming for straight A's might be misguided. And an alternate path to building wealth and finding meaning in the digital age.

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 competitive jobs require rock-solid grades to get into good schools.

For everyone else:

💰1. Traditional Schooling Doesn't Teach You The Skills Required To Succeed In The Digital Age

The skills required to make money and find meaning in the digital age aren't the same as in the 1950s and 60s.

In the digital age, rote knowledge matters less than your perspective and learning speed. There is more information than ever, and new information is coming out faster than ever. A physical college degree doesn't prepare you for the digital world anymore.

That's because traditional schooling is still built on an industrial-era model.

It's trying to make you into the perfect factory worker.

Traditional schooling teaches you how to do algorithmic work. Algorithmic work has clear processes, systems, and outcomes. But as Daniel H. Pink explains in his book, [[Drive by Daniel H. Pink|Drive]], over the last few decades, there has been a large increase in heuristic work. Heuristic work doesn't have a clear process, system, or outcome for doing it. Think about knowledge work, writers, AI researchers, and more.

So, to thrive in an age of increasing heuristic work, you can't rely only on traditional schooling.

You must ingrain one of the most valuable skills in the digital age: love for learning.

Only intrinsic love for learning will push you to learn the skills you need outside of class. Skills like personal branding, marketing, notetaking, sales, journaling, weightlifting, and more.

Most schools won't likely teach you these.

💔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, lecture slides, and readings. What's not pushed for? Learning outside of the class.

Grades don't encourage you to explore your curiosities.

But in a world changing faster than ever with the Internet and AI, it's intrinsic learners who will keep with the times.

I felt this loss of intrinsic motivation firsthand:

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

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

Aiming for straight A's makes you a cookie-cutter student.

Cookie-cutter students are cookie cutter versions of everyone else aiming for straight A's. But as mentioned before, to succeed in the digital age you must differentiate. This won't happen if you learn the same things as everyone else.

Clearly, we need to do something to break free of the Traditional schooling system.

💸4. Having A Degree Is No Longer As Valuable An Asset

Degrees used to be the secret spice to getting a high-quality job.

Because they were rare. According to Gitmux Blog, only 28.5% of baby boomers have a college degree. But in 2023, 44.4% of adults above 25 now do.

Having a degree is no longer as valuable an asset.

🫗5. 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 teachers curve many classes meaning the worse other students do the better your grade. 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 in office hours for Statistics 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, a scarcity mindset is advantageous in many places of the world.

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

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

⛓️How To Break Free Of The Traditional Schooling System? The Alternate Path.

Taking these five reasons into account, I'm not striving for straight A's anymore.

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 a love for learning.

Students with a love for learning can make themselves into a category of one. They can learn many skills that combine to make themselves completely unique. This gives allows them to make more money than most straight A students ever will.

My fellow Cornell friends are barely making minimum wage working internships. Meanwhile, I've made $1000s in passive income from my digital product Obsidian University.

How did I do it?

I built a series of differentiated skills, including writing, content creation, public speaking, Personal Knowledge Management, gamification, and more. These combine to give me tremendous leverage in the job market. I posted my journey learning these skills online, allowing job prospects to come to me.

I created my own college curriculum on the internet.

🎓The Internet Is The New College

The internet is changing education forever.

For the first time ever, you can get a superior university-level education for free, online, anywhere. All you need is an internet connection and a love for learning. You can learn things online you can't in physical college.

And with social media, you can showcase your learning publicly.

Social media changes everything.

By publicly learning, you create what writer David Perell calls a Serendipity vehicle. If you publish content (blogs, podcasts, videos, etc.) regularly, people will discover you and initiate unexpected opportunities. They'll open doors you didn't even know existed.

See why having an abundance mentality is so important now?

Those with an abundance mentality are those most willing to share their learnings online for free.

In effect, public learners add to the new Internet college. This not only adds to the value of the internet college but builds trust with their audience. Eventually, they can systemize their learnings to create products and courses that make them money. They give away information and sell the implementation.

It's a win-win.

The public learners win by having a medium to apply their learnings and make money. Their audience win by getting to consume information for free and buy implementation.

📢What Should You Do?

If you have reached this point of the article, you understand the nature of school is changing.

So what can you do?

There are two things you must do:

Learn to fall in love with learning

Create a public learning action plan

To fall in love with learning you must learn how to take effective notes.

Notetaking is the foundation for all of your intrinsic learning endeavors. It's how you make your learning active, it forms the foundation for your public learning, and it's how you make yourself into a category of one by connecting seemingly disparate ideas to create something new. Every prominent creator I know has a notetaking system of some sort.

For a free option, I recommend you check out my Obsidian notetaking for students' playlist on YouTube.

You'll learn:

  • How to get decent grades in less time so you can focus on ACTUALLY enjoying college life, making memories, and building skills outside of college
  • How to level up your notetaking and studying in Obsidian
  • How to fall back in love with learning

Next, you're going to need to learn how to learn publically.

I suggest you check out my College Content Creator Resource List to do this.

It includes all the resources I wish I had three years ago when starting my content creation journey in college.

Doing these two things isn't going to be easy. But the nature of school is changing.

Are you willing to change alongside it?