My GPA Was A Lie!

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.– Jiddu Krishnamurti

“Emotional intelligence accounts for 80 percent of career success.”
Daniel Goleman

I spent a better part of my time in school chasing the perfect grade point average. Embarrassingly, I once (successfully) negotiated a grade increase much like Cher did in the movie Clueless. I was certain that if I reached the perfect grade point average my life would be smooth sailing. My life has not been smooth, but I doubt that has much to do with my inability to maintain a 4.0.

Once I started graduate school, a realization struck me in the form of a check sheet. I was invited to help with the admissions committee and was presented with the criteria for admission to the graduate school. The GPA requirement was not a 4.0, it was much more reasonable, and the check sheet included other background areas, such as: volunteer work, employment experience, and the personal essay.

Because I loved school so much (and did not want to adult yet), I set out for even more graduate school. I was even admitted to an exclusive program without reaching the “acceptable” score on the required standardized test. During interviews, one professor thought it was problematic, but the others were not concerned. I was later told by a faculty member that my tendency towards neuroticism was going to kill me if I wasn’t careful. This was his area of expertise and I did my best to chill out.

Now more than a decade into my career, not one person has asked to see my GPA. I used to provide my high marks on my resume/CV but was told by a friend that was also a manager that “it really wasn’t necessary to do so.” (nobody really cares).

I recently came across a study that put this all in perspective.  Thomas Stanley, PhD discovered that there was no correlation between grades and professional success. In fact, “The average SAT score for the sample was 1190.  Their most frequent grade in both high school and college was “B.”  Their GPA in college was 2.9.  They typically did not qualify for admission to an “elite” college or university.”

So, grades don’t matter as much as you think. What does? John Mayer (the researcher, not the singer) found that emotional intelligence was a far better predictor of success than grades, IQ, and standardized tests.

What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?

EQ is a combination of five different markers defined by Daniel Goleman, an expert on emotional intelligence:

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Self-Regulation
  3. Internal Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skills

To be fair, tests and grades are still important in assessing mastery. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with talented and brilliant people. It is not that I wish I would have done poorly or been less focused on grades. I just think we can do a better job of creating a culture that forces young people to also achieve high marks on emotional intelligence. In fact, it appears if you are kind, you just might be more successful.

Notable exceptions to the kindness equals success equation are Steve Jobs and Donald Trump. Although, there might be more to success than money.

“People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.”
Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition




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