A few months ago, we had a “Golden Jubilee” class reunion. It was an enjoyable experience and meeting my old classmates, many of them after decades, was priceless.
Several classmates made interesting comments that emphasized the fact that they were the “back benchers” of the class, always getting into trouble. Almost invariably, they were made by folks who have achieved financial success. The implication being, “See, I have been more successful than you — the “topper””.
Several thoughts come to mind:
First, there is no strong co-relation between academic achievement and financial success. In fact, it may be reverse. I always remember a joke told by one of my friends. He said that if you divide the class into four quartiles, based on academic performance, those in the first quartile will become researchers and professors, the second will produce manager who will manage those in the first quartile, the third will become politicians and control the first two, and the fourth will become gangsters who will manage all of the above. A joke, for sure, but with a kernel of truth.
Second, some of us conducted a survey of our classmates in which we asked them what factors do they attribute to their success. Most of the factors had to do with their ability to interact with people and communicate. Hardly anyone mentioned academia.
Third, one should not assume that the only definition of “success” is “financial success.” Most of our classmates are successful in their own way, even if they are not rich. They have set about goals in their lives that are not related to accumulation of wealth and achieved them. For example, one of our classmates, and his wife, have devoted their lives to rural development in India and affected so many lives. Even though they are not wealthy, they are successful.
Finally, on personal side, I was one of the “toppers” and went to great schools. That helped initially in my career, but coming from a family that eschewed wealth, I never set that as a goal. Having “enough” was enough for me. I feel successful even though I did not become as wealthy as some of my classmates. I have had a good life and feel very satisfied.
That’s what matters.