What do Frida Kahlo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Frank Lloyd Wright all have in common? Aside from being brilliant, internationally renowned, creative thinkers, none of them had formal training in the fields that made them successful. When you’re young, it’s easy to think that your performance in school determines what the rest of your life will be like, but open up a history book and you’ll see many examples of people who achieved incredible things despite struggling with formal education.
While in the past, success in academic school was one of the surest routes to a bright career, there is no such certainty now. As you’ve probably experienced before, it’s possible to get a good grade in a class without actually retaining much of the information. Because of this, if you want to truly master a subject or a skill, it’s important to take your learning beyond the classroom.
When Bill Gates first enrolled at Lakeside School, he wasn’t much different from your typical seventh grader. It wasn’t until the school invested in some early computing machines that he found his passion. While his programming education started in the classroom, what truly set Gates apart from his classmates is that it didn’t end in the classroom. He spent as much time as he possibly could with the machines, and was even excused from math classes to spend more time programming.
True learning isn’t driven by grades and syllabuses. It’s driven by a sense of passion and personal interest. If you can find a subject, a hobby, or a skill that truly excites you, pursue it in every way you can! Even if that hobby never becomes a career, it will probably help you to develop not only some marketable soft skills, but also a social network and sense of identity that will take you far in life. Remember, excellence doesn’t just come from grades and test scores. It also comes from embracing your sense of uniqueness and understanding what you have to contribute to the world around you.
Today’s job market is evolving at an incredibly rapid pace. There’s no way of knowing what opportunities will be available tomorrow! The best thing you can do is to play to your strengths by cultivating the skills and interests that make you most passionate. Start your own projects, do your own research, and above all, explore the world around you. Who knows, you could be the next Bill Gates!