Life Grades

 Imagine a life where you were graded on everything like you are in school.

In a way, what you view as success, be that happiness, wealth, power, social capital, number of times you can say ‘bro’ in a day, is your external grading scale. You’re going after something, what that is defined by you, whether you intentionally realize I­t­ or not.

The thing about grades is that they are finite. If you get a D on a Math exam, you don’t get a chance to redo that exam ever again. Perhaps the entire class tanked and you’re graded on a curve, or the teacher might let you take another exam if you are convincing, but I­t­ will never be the same questions. A grade is one and done.

There are three mindsets we could fall into here:

Mindset #1: Pass or Fail

I’m either going to win or I’m going to lose. If I️ fail, it’s game over — time to throw in the towel, move on to something else and forget I­t­ ever happened. This is a very black and white mentality. It’s the equivalent of being injured and told you’ll never be the same again, and then *believing I­t­* without proving them and their expectations wrong.

When you walk around with the pass / fail mindset, there is a huge change for failure and a small chance for success.

Most will fail, Some do succeed. From sheer luck or the grace of God, there are people out there dream something (or stumble into something) they want and succeed. But then what? They fall apart. They think they’ve made I­t­, they stop trying to improve and then they slide back down into obscurity or worse.

Success and failure happen to us all, but an A+ doesn’t mean you have purpose, happiness or meaning. And an F- doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of mediocrity.

Mindset #2: Grades Don’t Matter

Grades are stupid so why should I️ even try? You’re in the “Grades are Stupid” mindset when you cringe every time you hear someone describe life as a “game”. You don’t want to play the game or follow anyone else’s rules so you opt out. But just because you don’t want to play the game doesn’t mean that there isn’t a game.

Maybe calling life is a game is stupid. I­t­ is reductive. Life isn’t a game, life is an infinite number of games. Giving up before you even start is a game that you are playing, it’s just a bad one. It’s like playing Space Chinese checkers. It sounds like a great idea at the time, until someone chokes on a floating marble. When you opt out, you’re playing the game called “Giving up”. It’s a great party game where everyone loses. 

There are two subcategories under the ”Grades Don’t Matter” mindset:

Deciding not to try.

Whether its fear of losing, or a believe that you are not good enough, you’ve decided not to try. I’ve fallen into this mindset before. The thing you don’t realize until well after the fact, is that by deciding not to try, you automatically defaulted to losing. I️ think the majority of us want to win, even when we decide not to try. We made the decision to not play, but we still want to win, even though it’s impossible because we opted out. This is the mindset you want to avoid most. Here there be dragons and mysterious “what if’s” and feelings of regret.

Deciding to play a different game.

This could be good. Playing a different game then everyone else leads to life-changing innovations and new ways of thinking. But not every game should be thrown out of the window. Some games you need to learn the rules before you can properly break the rules. Deciding to not take your savings, credit and retirement seriously, doesn’t make you clever or lead to a great outcome. But that doesn’t mean you have to play the game like everyone else. There is no one clear-cut path to success, yet some people go there entire lives living like there is. Head down, zero questions, in the heard like everyone else, hoping that their day will come, instead of going after I­t­ themselves. Don’t be that kind of bro. Go after I­t­.

Mindset #3: Success is a Spectrum 

Losing only happens when you stop and give up. Failures, setbacks, obstacles, feedback, critiques, milestones, wins... everything else is progress and momentum forward.

Mountain examples are so overused, but —

Even if you trip all the way up the mountain, you still made I­t­ to the peak. No one remembers your stumbles unless you give up half way (or die epically from lack of preparation).

Success is a spectrum, and what you do, your actions and decisions is your thumb on the scale. Whether you go up or down is determined by how much effort and intention you give.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

And wherever you are, keep smiling :)

— Josh Waggoner