Valedictorians: Past Behavior is not Predictive of Future Success

He scored four touchdowns in one game in high school. That was his peak.

In the investing/finance world, there is the standard disclaimer “Past performance may not be indicative of future results.” Meaning, a mutual fund that yielded 10x the competition last year, may not happen again this year.

This disclaimer, while weasel-ish (but legally approved!), applies in real life too as the title of this post suggests. Namely, how someone performed in the past may not mean they will be destined for infinite greatness. This relates to a recent article talking about class valedictorians has gone viral in popularity and spread around. The article is actually an excerpt from Barking up the Wrong Tree. The main concept of the article is that those valedictorians and other people who were great at getting A’s in high school don’t necessarily become huge successes later in life.

That’s not to say, however, that top students become hobos or delinquents. Some do go on to become doctors, lawyers, tax partners, etc. But because they know how to follow rules and get good grades, these students only know how to compete in “the system”.

Do you ever look up former competitors classmates on Fakebook or LinkedIn to see what happened to them, much like we look up to celebrities of yesteryear? Perhaps there’s some schadenfreude or some curiosity. Like, did Susie Smartie become that Vice President of Sales? What about Simon Suckup? Is he a surgeon now?

Towards being socially upward, we can’t be chained too much to our past. That article about class valedictorians probably speaks to our insecurities in which we didn’t perform well in a rules-based game (i.e. the school system). But real life doesn’t work that way; and I’d argue that school doesn’t teach you those skills to succeed and be socially upward in real life.

So if you’ve ever failed at something or didn’t seem to have a knack for a topic, don’t let that past behavior rule you forever. It’s not your past behavior that dictates whether you’ll be successful. No, it’s your ability to get knocked down seven times, but get back up eight times that does.



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