Dear Matriculants,

Well done to all who wrote the 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 in your hands. It’s up to you whether you do something with your life or not. The only person who can bring a real difference to your world is YOU!

Exam results do not show the depth of your love and kindness, nor the resilience of your spirit. They do not display your talents, capabilities nor your future. They do not depict your strong moral compass nor do they determine who you are. The things that interest you, captivate you and make you feel alive. You are unique!

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 based on certificates? As for me, 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.

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 those that fall by the wayside can be the most important of all. You only need to look at the vast numbers of highly successful and intelligent people who failed to shine in school to see how limiting exams are.

Sadly, the system loses too many talented intelligent people 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 kids who would rather explore nature for themselves than read about it in a text book is also learning. The students who struggle in the classroom but excel in athletics is also learning and has an equal chance at success. The aspiring musician/actor who is called foolish for following his/her dreams 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 commit suicide for failing an exam.  

Nevertheless, whether you failed Matric or passed, don’t let the results be the main determining factor for your future. Be led by your heArt and by the things you enjoy doing. Many students and even parents confuse academic excellence with passion/talents. Having distinctions in certain subject does not necessarily mean your career path lies in those subjects. Same goes for failing or scoring low marks in certain subjects.

Some of you are about to go to tertiary, while others are about to get jobs, etc. My message to all is that, do not let Matric results put you on the wrong path or discourage you from doing something you love that might be outside your academic qualifications. 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. 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 to be an Accountant. 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.  

Your Matric results should not be the main influence on your university degree, career choice or destiny. Also, do not follow the opinions of your family or friends in choosing a career path just because they suggest 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 about what you really love doing and are passionate about. Think 5 to 10 years ahead. Think technology and how it’d impact your future and the industry you are getting into.  Think robotics, artificial intelligence, digitization and self-service automated systems. We’re on the brink of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Will the university degree you are embarking on or the career you are choosing still be viable in the next five years?   

Rapidly emerging new technologies are generating a huge paradigm shift that is affecting businesses and employment as we know it. The process of job loss due to robotics and artificial intelligence has already begun and entire industries are being wiped out by emerging technologies. A growing number of people are becoming increasingly anxious about the future viability of jobs.  Cutting-edge technologies and the impact of automated systems on employment are some of the key areas of focus I’ve written about in my upcoming book, “Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted: Escape Conformity, Reinvent Your Thinking and Thrive in a World of Turbulent Economic Anxiety.”

Society puts too much emphasis on academic excellence and forget there’s a real world out there. Passing an exam with distinction doesn’t necessarily make one an automatic success and failing an exam doesn’t make one an automatic failure either. There is a real world outside the four walls of a classroom that doesn’t really care about your “grades and certificates.” Times have changed! In this age and time, a kid with only a smart phone and no academic qualifications whatsoever can build a system that’ll bring giant industries to their knees. Whether or not you make it in life is mostly determine by your attitude and state of mind as I’ve explained in Chapter 4 of my book “Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted”

We only have to reflect on some of our leading public figures who dropped out of school and ended up in prominent positions to know that the traditional system of assessing intelligence was not capable of measuring their particular abilities, sense of purpose, work ethic and their creativity. Think of all the 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, 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.

My message to Matriculants going to various tertiary and universities, is that 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. Whatever degree you decide to choose, make sure you understand the world around you and how it is changing. 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. Do what you are passionate about because that is where you will make your mark in the world.

Dr. Myles Munroe wrote, “God has put a gift in every person that the world will make room for. It is this gift that will enable you to fulfill your vision. It will make a way for you in life. It is in exercising this gift that you will find real fulfilment, purpose, and contentment in your soul. You must decide if you are going to rob the world or bless it with the rich, valuable, potent, untapped resources locked away inside you.”

Sometimes, society look down on those who pursue other interests instead of furthering their education. We are so focused on whether someone has a Matric, a degree or not, so much so that we then 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 Matric certificate or lack of it.  Don’t let it determine your happiness, abilities, even your future success.

In case you failed, please don’t put yourself through a mental breakdown, don’t worry about teachers doubting you or all of the classmates laughing at you when you give wrong answers or the times you left class to go cry in the bathroom.  Don’t go through life with a stigma because you failed Matric 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. Success or failure is mostly determine by your mindset not certificates.

There is a great need for the school system to look wider and encourage the entrepreneur, the inquisitive, the creative 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 wish schools weren’t such a competition ground. No winning or losing – just learning.

What ever your results are, I’ll conclude my message 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 who’ll decide where to go.”

From my Heart to Yours
Nicky Verd
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