An Open Letter to Matriculants and Parents. Class of 2019

Success or Failure in Life is Determined by your Mindset not Certificates.

Posted by: Nicky Verd Comments: 2

Dear Matriculants,

I know these last few months haven’t been easy. So much expectation, excitement and anxiety about your Matric exam results. I wish schools weren’t such a competition ground. No winning, no losing – just learning but it is what it is. However, the wait is finally over and your results are here!

This goes out to all parents, teachers and guidance too.

Congratulations to all who wrote the Matric Exams. Well done to all who passed with distinctions. Well done to all those who didn’t make it and couldn’t find their names on the list. Whether you made it or didn’t make it, the future is still in your hands. The only person who can bring a real difference to your world is YOU… not certificates!

Whether your results are ‘good or bad’, it is now time to ask yourself – what do these results mean? Are these results the binary predictor that you’ll be a success or failure in life? Is your intelligence based on your performance in school? Is your happiness and success based on a certificate?

And the answer is a big no. Matric results do not necessarily show the things that captivate and makes you feel alive. Matric results do not display your talents or capabilities. They do not depict your strong moral compass nor do they determine your future. Matric results are not a reflection of the depth of your kindness or the resilience of your spirit.

The Best Predictors of Success

It’s easy to think those with distinctions are inevitably going to leave everyone else in the dust but having a vision for your life, a sense of purpose, dreams and ambition backed by hard work and resilience are better predictors of success in life than any single public exam. Of course, Matric exams and other exams are an important part of life but they are only good indicators of your knowledge at one point in time, rather than the ultimate final word or seal on your destiny. Success in life is determined by your attitude and state of mind.

Even though public exams are designed to separate the more ‘intelligent’ from the less ‘intelligent’ but measuring intelligence only through exams is inevitably limiting. Too many ‘intelligent’ children, often bored by conventional learning, slip through the net. By measuring intelligence through ‘one size fits all’ exams, we can get some of the crops, but not all, and sometimes those that fall by the wayside can be the most important of them all. You only need to look at the vast numbers of highly successful and intelligent people in our society who failed miserably to shine in school to see how limiting exams are. Take heart if you are one of the crops that slipped through the net.

Sadly, the system loses too many talented intelligent kids by defining intelligence only through exams. The kid who dread going to school still loves to learn. The kid who is too shy to participate in class still have ideas worth sharing. The kid who would rather explore nature for themselves than read about it in a textbook is also learning. The kid who struggles in the classroom but excels in athletics is also learning and has an equal chance at success. The aspiring musician/actor who is called foolish for choosing art instead of pursuing a “real” career is also intelligent.

Everyone is capable of leading a happy and fulfilling life doing what they love, even if it doesn’t measure up to society’s standards. In the grand scheme of things, certificates are only a small factor in one’s life, and do not define you as a person. No one should ever commit suicide for failing an exam.  

Academic Excellence Vs Real Life

Society puts too much emphasis on academic excellence and forgets there’s a real-world outside the classroom. Passing an exam with distinction doesn’t necessarily make one an automatic success as well as failing an exam doesn’t make one an automatic failure in life. There is a real-world outside that doesn’t necessarily care about your “grades and certificates.”

Many students and even parents confuse academic excellence with passion and talents. Having distinctions in a certain subject does not necessarily mean your career path lies in those subjects. Same goes for failing or scoring low marks in certain subjects. Performing well in History or Mathematics does not necessarily mean your destiny is as a Historian or a Mathematician. Performing well in Accounting does not necessarily mean your destiny is an Accountant. Choosing a career simply because you did well in certain subjects is a strategic blunder. Many people made this mistake and are paying heavily for it. Be led by your heArt and by the things you enjoy doing.

Whether you are about to go to university or about to get jobs, Do not let Matric results put you on the wrong path or discourage you from doing something you love that might lie outside your academic qualifications.

From my own personal experience, I was a good Accounting student. I even had classmates who wanted to be friends just so they could tap into my ability with numbers but I knew deep down my passion/purpose wasn’t in Accounting. My family tried to force me into taking a career in accounting to no avail. I have a curious mind that loves to explore and I knew I’ll be miserable in a profession of standardized routine format and red tape with no room for creativity.  

And so, do not follow the opinions of your family or friends in choosing a career path just because they’re suggesting it will make you a lot of money. Deciding your career path this way equals the game of playing dice with your future. People who allow certificates or family to choose their paths in life, end up feeling stuck, burn out, depressed and unhappy. So, as you are getting ready for your next move, think carefully about what you really love doing and are passionate about.

Consider How Technology is Changing the Work Place.

Will the university degree you are embarking on or the career you are choosing still be viable in the next 5 years?   Rapidly emerging new technologies are generating a huge paradigm shift that is affecting businesses and employment as we know it. Think 5 to 10 years ahead. Think about how disruptive technologies will impact your future and the industry you are getting into.  Think robotics, artificial intelligence, digitization and self-service automated systems. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here and with the rise of Artificial Intelligence, the future certainly has the potential to draw more on an individual’s talents than certificates.

The process of job loss due to robotics and artificial intelligence has already begun and entire industries are being wiped out by emerging technologies. The impact of disruptive technologies and automated system are some of the key areas of focus I’ve written about in my new book, Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted.

Times have changed! The Fourth Industrial Revolution is creating a demand for new skills and new competencies. In this age and time, a kid with only a smartphone, access to the internet and no academic qualifications can still build systems that’ll bring giant industries to their knees.

You only have to look at world’s leading public figures today, some dropped out of school, some are kids literally making millions on Youtube reviewing toys, etc to know that the traditional method of assessing/measuring success is completely outdated. They are many examples of celebrated people who found success despite their poor performance in school. If Steve Jobs hadn’t dropped out of college, the genius designs of Apple may have never been invented. Same goes for Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson.  Albert Einstein, who was deemed “mentally inept” as a child but went on to become the most famous physicist in history. These brilliant minds are regarded as the greatest innovators in their fields, but were once considered nerds/incompetent as students.

There is More to Life than the Classroom and Exams.

And so dear Matriculants, there is more to life than the classroom, textbooks, lectures, exams and certificates. Don’t turn the classroom into your world but turn the world into your classroom. Fulfilment in life comes from being in alignment with your purpose. As you go to the University, whatever degree you decide to choose, make sure you understand the world around you and how it is changing. Understand how advances in technology will impact your career. Align your career with your passion/gifts because people who start life from the platform of their talents tend to experience more happiness, fulfilment and ultimately rise much higher in life than people who start life only from the platform of their certificates.

Sometimes, society looks down on those who pursue other interests instead of furthering their education. We are so focused on whether someone has Matric, a Degree so much so that we tend to lose focus on other important things like creativity, imagination, mindset and personality. Going to school, getting a degree, and getting a job is the path that we are “supposed” to conform and follow. But this is not the path for everyone, and that is okay. This isn’t to say education isn’t important. No, getting an education is one of the best things you can do for yourself but don’t let everything hinges on your school certificate or lack of it.  Don’t let it determine your happiness, abilities, even your future success. Do what you are passionate about because that is where you will make your mark in the world.

In case you are one of the kids who failed Matric, please don’t put yourself through a mental breakdown, don’t worry about parents doubting you or your classmates laughing at you.  Don’t go through life with a stigma because you failed an exam or scored average. Everyone has different talents, abilities, and strengths. Everyone learns differently and just because you don’t do well in school doesn’t mean you are not smart, capable or worthy of success. Let me say this again, Success or failure in life is determined by your mindset…not certificates.

There is an urgency for the school system to look wider and encourage not only the doctors and engineers but also the entrepreneurs, the inquisitive, the creatives and the downright stubborn in our schools to make the most of who they are and to bring out the richness and diversity of thought and ideas to society.


I’ll conclude my letter to you in the words of Dr Seuss “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy/girl who’ll decide where to go.”

In Chapter 3 of my new book, Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted, I mentioned that. “Certificates are no longer a guaranteed ticket to success. You can do more today with your life having just an internet connection, and that’s an opportunity our parents and grandparents never had”

From my Heart to Yours
Nicky Verd

Author of the Hit Book – Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted!

A book born out of an authentic passion to ignite human potential in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Available @ Exclusive Books SA
Available @ Bargain Books SA
Available on Amazon

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