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I think "success" in life is most likely to be had had by two categories of students: B- students and A+ students (or their equivalent depending on where in the world you were schooled). Every grade category outside of those two have a harder go of things, and I'd wager it is in these two categories where you find the highest density of talent.
The reasons A+ students are successful is apparent. They are machines. They can read subjects, internalize them, compute them, and reframe them to any purpose that they need in a timeframe that is seemingly instantaneous to others in the student body. They have a winners mentality and gun for first, seeing anything else as abject failure. And, most importantly, since society needs to award someone, A+ students are the most plausible candidate to receive attention from the traditional pillars of society: fancy schools, fancy jobs, etc. But this essay is not about A+ students. There is enough literature on A+ students and their outcomes in their adult lives.
This essay is for the B- students.
Why B- Students are Unique in the Grade Pool
The reasons as to why B- students are so successful is less readily apparent, but under examination makes obvious sense. B- students are smart enough to understand the material of traditional schooling (and more broadly, the rules of society), but have enough individuality to shun the stringent and silly requirements of schooling and move to the beat of their own drum.
In other words, the B- student does not spend all-nighters in the library cramming. That's what A(-/+) students do. B- students do not waste cycles trying to optimize essays for teachers who reward minute differences. They realize that tests, essays, homework, etc. in courses are unevenly weighted, and if they only spend time on the important bits, they can basically get zeroes on all the other homework/assignments the teacher gives out and still pass.
Unlike the lower GPAs, B- students have anywhere from just enough to above ample school smarts to play the convincing role of a student who cares. This performance is worth an A in it's own right. For the B- student to do just enough to basically gaslight an entire student body and teaching staff is an art form; a science requiring a deep knowledge of game theory, psychology, economics, and mathematics.
These are the two ingredients that make B- students so special: the innate ability to perform what society dictates as important, mirrored equally as impressively by their ability to not give a flying f*ck and do whatever they want in spite of what others think. They have the ability to perform better, but prefer to avoid the game theory melee of the straightforward competition. B- students are the quintessential "work smarter, not harder" crowd.
Given the cold zero sum report card nature of schooling, many B- students do not receive traditional awards, or get their names in local newspapers. After many years of this treatment, B- students learn to not be so easily impressed by traditional visages of wealth and success. They are used to being underestimated by both peers and instructors. External pressures from instructors are put on the A students try-harding the course load, and the C students and below about to fail the course load, so the B students slide under the radar, and thus B- students must create their own intrinsic motivators. This solace from the melee is enough to allow the B- students ample time to find meaning for their lives outside the four walls of the classroom, to find talent somewhere in the planet sized Coliseum of life.
The strategy of 1) be smart enough to play the game in the first place 2) be smart enough to know that playing the game with zealous fervor is stupid -- follows them through their lives. This strategy will be applied in different ways at companies and in the personal arenas of relationships. Let's examine how B- plays out in three spheres of life: dating, work, and death.
The B- Dater
The B- dater is someone who leverages the same B- traits in school to the dating game. The B- avoids common competitive traps like dating apps, and loud bars. These places, virtual and physical, are the cramming libraries of the dating world -- the game is lost before it begins for the arena is a crush where no individual voice can be heard over the cacophony.
The B- dater knows what it means to be in A(-/+) relationship, and knows what they need to work on in themselves to get that, to perform their half of the relationship, and most likely partially carry their partner's half too.
But the thing is, B- daters don't want an A(-/+) relationship in the first place. Indeed, the most prominent trait of a B- dater is the same as a B- student: individuality. B- daters are happy single, or at least, not overtly concerned about their relationship status. The ability to be happy single allows the B- dater to feel no pressure from the clock, and approach dating opportunities with the lens of: is this relationship mutually good for both of us? Will this relationship take away or harm what I feel about myself? What effect will this relationship have on my projects in motion?
B- daters will generally be found where their skills shine and they won't necessarily be advertising their desire to date.
To attract a B-, one must be willing to indulge what's called "bounded eccentricity". Bounded eccentricity is the ability to do (or in this case for you looking to date a B-, appreciate) something that would be considered unique/artsy but the realized skill is undeniably there. The work output is just…good. You hear, see it, touch it, whatever. It just works. The design and thoughtfulness is on point.
You'll know it when you see it.
Reach out to them. Appeal to their talent by showing them yours. Kindred spirits, and such.
The B- Worker
The B- worker realistically… isn't at work. Most B- workers are bit early on by the entrepreneurship bug and are off trying to build their fortune and try their luck at creating something they can call theirs. A B- will realize that endless meetings, status gaming promotions, kiss-assing the boss, etc. is major A(+/-) energy and won't want any part of it. Those who stay will do an amazing job of making themselves invaluable, and make themselves partners within the organization as much as possible. The B- worker is all about skin in the game, and meaningless symbols like corner offices and free lunches appeal little to them. B- workers value two things in the work economy above all else: money, and dignity. Money is obvious. Dignity is a combination of autonomy in role and respect. If either of those is missing or insufficient, you can expect a B- to walk.
The B- Die-er
The B- die-er is someone who at the end of life looks back and realizes that they never really did spend that much time at all looking back. Regret is for A(-/+) die-ers, and ignorance of what could have been but didn't happen is for C and below die-ers. The B- die-er tended to spend their lives in the moment, most generally fostering skills and relationships that struck a chord of intrinsic importance, and thus have formed really solid relationships on the bedrock of "bounded eccentricity". The obituary of a B- die-er will include something along the lines of: "he/she was indisputably the best at (your_career_choice_here) in their generation". The funeral of a B- die-er will include stories that will have everyone ugly cry-laughing at realizing that they were indeed the true genuine article. A B- is a person who spent their life progressing the field of biology by publishing novel research for humanity while also somehow finding the time to spend every weekend reading their Kindle at a local jazz bar.
Wanna Be a B…minus?
After reading this, you may be thinking: this B- thing sounds pretty good, I wanna give it a go. If you aren't an innate B- student, here is how you become one:
- If you are a C student or lower, your goal will be to study the game better. Society has punished you by "testing you out" of a lot of rooms where you'd be able to provide value. You have a very straightforward, but difficult strategy to perform. You need to workhorse up to the talent level of a B-. It sucks, but it is what it is. Fortunately, you are most likely very resourceful outside of "school", meaning that once you learn how to play the game better, you will very easily emotionally adapt to the lifestyle of a B-.
- If you are an A(+/-) student, you will need to let go of your grip. Just take a deep breath, and be willing to question authority more often than you do. Don't ask questions because it will help you get ahead, ask questions that will break the game's ruleset and flip the proverbial table. You will have the opposite problem to the C students, you will need to work less hard than you do now, and spend more time caring less about what other people think about your degrees, your cars, your jobs, etc. Use what you are already good at, your ability to grind and win, and turn the furnace inward. Look inside your own mind and see who's home.
Addendum: Fictional Characters That Totally Give B- Energy
Harvey plays the game exactly how he wants to play it. He's amazing at his job, hated by most of his coworkers, all the while hiring another B- superstar, Mike Ross.
Similar to Harvey, Sherlock is so successful because he thinks how criminals and detectives think. He is not bound to the same rules that the constables use, and as such, he B(-)'s the hell out of some mysteries.
Tony Stark of course would be an A student, but would see school as more of a way to keep eyes off his real project, the Iron Man suit. As such, he plays the role.
Gon's dad Ging Freecs gives major B(-). He literally is quoted saying:
“You should enjoy the little detours. To the fullest. Because that’s where you’ll find the things more important than what you want.”
Atticus is a character who goes out of his way to make lives easier for others, by upholding his own moral code. Atticus is always just…Atticus.
Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets.
These Rico Suave fiction characters all follow the same kind of trend: you don't have to play the game; to play the game. This is the reason they appeal to us so much as an audience. They are smart and they don't seem to give a singular f*ck. They are…cool!
Think about it.
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