I have spent the day at a Tom Peter’s seminar (I am sure you will be hearing more of that in my blogs over the next few days – weeks/years). He gave me a lot to think about, but one of the most important personal things to happen today is that he has enabled me to come clean about a dark moment in my past.

I am a bit of an academic, I must admit. It comes easily for me. Its a natural talent that I cannot take pride in, or claim responsibility for. It is a gift, rather than anything I have worked hard to deserve. So, studying comes easily to me. Just 2 weeks ago, I received my fifth degree, a PhD in Business Administration. It did feel good, especially since I received it with distinction. I have a Masters (in Diaconology – a cross between sociology and theology) (cum laude), an Honours in Theology (cum laude), a Bachelor of Arts (cum laude) and a Bachelor of Commerce. I have enjoyed getting them, and am sure that I have not yet finished my studies. I enjoyed school as well, ending my final school year as dux scholar. I say all these things, not to boast, but to give context o what I am about to confess.
Sitting in Tom Peters’ session today, I cringed. He adamantly instructed that you should “never again hire anyone with academic qualifications”. Ouch. “The type of people”, he explained, “who would make a success of an academic career where those who worked inside the system, who never stepped outside the lines”, etc, etc. I get his point. But I had always thought of myself as emminently hireable.
Then he redeemed me somewhat by explaining that research he had seen on Physics and the Sciences was that most of the people who received PhD’s had failed or done badly in their undergraduate studies. The type of people who would push the boundaries of science back – who would bend the rules of the universe to see what happened – were not the type to do well at undergrad level. Again, I got his point.
So, now to my confession. I failed final year of my first degree. I had never failed anything – not ever – not even a class test at school that didn’t count. I got 18% for Accounts 3! That was first time round. Second time round I failed again, but this time it was my last subject, and I was within the range of being granted a supplementary exam. I had to get 50% on that exam to pass the year, and get my degree. I am forever grateful to my wife who forced us to cancel our holiday plans, and got me studying to get through. I finally did.
Thanks, Tom, for helping me to come clean. I want to be known as a great post-grad student, who is creative, savvy and pushes boundaries. As of today, I am also proud that I have certified proof that I didn’t fully fit into the under-grad model of excellence.
It made me wonder about what criteria we use to decide which people to hire, and which to forego. Talent is an interesting thing – it certainly does not fit into the box.
Sort of…

TomorrowToday Global