It’s that time of term when Josie gets her school report. About a week ago, as I wrote this at the start of April, I get an email from the school with the standard covering letter.
How things have changed!
I remember getting mine as a letter in the post. I’d fill with nerves as my dad would open the envelope, his face getting darker by the moment as he read the contents.
I wasn’t stupid, just a little lazy and spent too much time on the tennis court when I should have been studying. It’s a strange thing to look back on those moments, watching my dad react. I recognise now, that for him, everything that was on that page had to be perfect or it wasn’t good enough. This isn’t a bad thing or a good thing but from his perspective, there was only one good result:
A’s all round, perfect attitude, effort, and potential.
I’m not built like that. It caused several interesting conversations between us. These often involved him chasing me around the house with one of his leather slippers in hand.
I wasn’t (and still am not) perfect and I tried hard at the things that interested me. Geography, biology…. Errr… you see my predicament.
Anyway, getting Josie’s reports are a very different experience. They arrive via email, no comments from the teachers. There’s no reading “Ash could do better” or “If he wasn’t daydreaming all the time, he’d contribute more”.
It’s just a set of numbers. Those of you reading this with children in year 10 will understand this. For those that don’t, it’s simple. You’re given a score (out of four) on attitude, organisation, and contribution in lessons. There is then a “professionally predicted grade”. what the subject teacher believes the student will get. Followed by the GCSE target grade. By the way, there is no A*, A, B, C and so on anymore. It’s all numbers. So, an 8 is an A*, 7 is A, 6 is B and so on.
(I don’t see the reason for the change either.)
Josie’s done well. This isn’t an article about how amazing Josie is by the way. She has as close to a “perfect” score that you can get. Four’s in every subject for all three areas of attitude, organisation, and contribution. She’s got a three for attitude and contribution to computer science (doesn’t like the teacher and who needs computers anyway?). And a three for attitude in religious education which is weird as she loves the teacher and the subject. Josie likes a good debate…
So, I’m happy and she’s happy.
I place far less stock in these scores and I’m not chasing perfect from her. Josie is a bright girl and will land on her feet with whatever she chooses to do so I’m not pushing her. She gets encouraged and she’s always maintained a steady set of scores that aren’t spectacular but solid. All good.
Where it gets interesting is the “professional predictions”. In the subjects she’s got fours, her predicted grade matches the required standard or higher. You’d expect this. But there are some interesting anomalies.
She likes geography, enjoys the work, and gets on well with the teacher and has three sets of fours. However, her predicted grade is a 5 (I think that’s a C) and the expected grade is a 7 (A). The same is true for math.
After speaking to her, what I’ve deduced is that it doesn’t matter what her attitude is. It doesn’t matter how organised she gets, how many questions she asks and if she likes the subject. For some subjects, she just doesn’t have an aptitude for it. Her brain doesn’t work that way. She tries hard. She wants to know about those subjects. She does the extra reading but there’s a limit to her capacity to understand the subject.
Now, this may change in time and this isn’t an article about glass ceilings, it’s about productivity.
Yesterday, the 5th April I ran a training course called how to be a Productivity Jedi. I felt it went well, great feedback etc. We had some interesting and quite deep discussions. Four for contribution from the majority of the 27 people in the room.
One of the subjects that came up in different guises was that of “letting go”. It surfaced as delegation, procrastination, and to-do lists.
There was a general sense of “nobody can do this as well as I can” which is something we all go through as entrepreneurs. What surprises me is how people are doing things in their business that they feel they should do when they’re no good at it.
They spend hours writing blog articles when they can’t produce anything coherent. They know it’s not good enough so the tweak and play with it and “faff” until it’s ‘perfect’ – except it’s not.
They’ll spend hours trying to understand the intricacies of Facebook ads. Spending money but not getting results.
They’ll spend ages looking at the phone, knowing they should follow-up but not making the calls.
They’ll practice a talk for weeks, knowing they’ll never get in front of the camera to record it.
They’ll learn how to code, so they can build their own websites.
The hundreds of hours wasted through stubbornness is frightening.
It’s enough to know what a thing does and the results you can expect. If your brain doesn’t work that way, find someone else to do it for you.
Even if you enjoy it like Josie enjoys geography if you want to make the most of the time you have available to you. Accept that you can’t be great in all your subjects and focus on where you can have the greatest impact. Unlike Josie, it’s okay to pay someone else to do our homework…