Forget straight A's: How thinking like a C student can make you more successful


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Do you procrastinate on big decisions? You might be too much of an A student, according to entrepreneur Taylor Pearson, author of “The End of Jobs.”

To be truly successful, you only need to make the right decision about 70 percent of the time, he says. He calls it the “70 percent rule.”

“The 70 percent rule is building on this idea of [Amazon founder] Jeff Bezos, that when you feel like you have 70 percent of the information you need to make a decision, you should just make a decision,” Pearson tells NBC News BETTER. “Because … the cost of being slow is often integrated in the cost of being wrong.”

Learn to make decisions like a C student

We tend to procrastinate on making a decision until we are sure it is the right one, according to Pearson. It’s a habit we pick up in school, he explains, where getting an answer wrong on a test can cost us a grade.

As the writer explains it, students who get As are right 90-95 percent of the time, those who get Bs are right about 80-90 percent of the time, and those who get Cs are right about 70 percent of the time.

“The way we’re educated is you wait and you research and you make sure you have the perfect answer,” Pearson says. “You double check all your work on a math test, you know that’s how you get an A. You’re very meticulous.”

If you wait until you’re 90 or 95 percent sure, it’s usually going to be too late, you’re going to miss the opportunity.

If you wait until you’re 90 or 95 percent sure, it’s usually going to be too late, you’re going to miss the opportunity.

But in the real world, he says, decisions often need to be made quickly.

“The idea behind it is that if you wait until you’re 90 or 95 percent sure, it’s usually going to be too late, you’re going to miss the opportunity,” he says, “and so you have to move at this 70 percent range, which if you had done that in school you would have gotten a C.”

Stop procrastinating

An accomplished author, essayist and entrepreneur, Pearson says he found success by learning to think like a C student.

In 2012, the former English teacher had grown dissatisfied with his career. Pearson landed an interview with a tech company that needed someone who knew search engine optimization. Shortly after the interview, Pearson received an email from the hiring manager telling him he didn’t get the job.

“You don’t really have any applicable skills,” it said.

Pearson was dismayed. He had majored in history with straight A’s, but his education had done little to prepare him for the job.

“It was just like a wakeup call,” Pearson says. “Like ‘Oh, wow, it’s true. I don’t have a skill that they need.’”

Pearson made a decision. He was going to teach himself SEO, something he always wanted to learn, but put off for too long.

“I was scared,” he said. “I was worried: ‘Oh, I’m going to work on this thing and it’s not going to happen.’”

But he decided to do it anyway. Pearson bought a book about SEO and registered a WordPress website. He began researching and publishing articles about a subject he knew nothing about: kitchen remodeling. He used what he taught himself about SEO to drive traffic to the site. He added a few advertisements, and the site began to earn a small income.

Now that Pearson had a marketable skill, he began cold-calling marketing agencies. A hiring manager agreed to meet with him and, after seeing his website, offered him a job. Pearson wondered why he had waited so long to take his career into his own hands.