As April rolled around my first year of college, a friend suggested we both stay and take classes spring term. I had no summer plans and, feeling somewhat spontaneous, agreed. We moved out of the dorms and into the apartment complex across the street (we chose the one with the biggest hot tub). I took throwaway classes that spring – Biology and Appreciation of Nature (which turned out to be a bird watching class). My friend took “Career Exploration”, a class that seemed fluffy to me but provided him with endless inspiration.
He came home excited one afternoon and asked “What’s more important: getting good grades or being able to throw a good party?” The answer, of course, was “being able to throw a good party”. The lecturer that day had explained how most successful business leaders didn’t get straight A’s in school but succeeded through their excellent interpersonal, organizational, and communication skills.
This stuck with me. I didn’t go to a party school, and our idea of a great party couldn’t be more different from, say, ASU, but parties were an important part of life. Our first attempt at throwing a good party was moderately successful. We printed fliers, had a decent turnout, but never really hit critical mass. It slowly fizzled out and died. Spring term ended and I went home, with something still nagging at me and telling me that I wasn’t done yet.
A few years later I succeeded, but that is another story for another day.
The question still crosses my mind today: “What’s more important: getting good grades or being able to throw a good party?” I now see the truth and half-truth in that statement. The truth is that the skills required to throw a good party often do lead to professional success. People want to work with you if you’re fun to work around. The ability to lead and organize people is a powerful differentiator.
The half-truth is that the statement implies that good grades won’t be important. They are. Good grades lead to better options, which lead to a better career. The skills it takes to get good grades – hard work, grit, a studious and inquisitive mind – are other skills that lead to professional success.
What I’ve learned from this is a lesson that I’m still slowly digesting. There are lots of ways to live your life and lots of ways to find professional success. Pick one and make it happen.