Why toppers don’t open startups?

Interesting question isn’t it? At school all of us meet a few select people who seem to have everything going for them. They are smart, they speak well, they get top grades and are loved by both teachers and parents. The rest of us at times admire and at other times envy this top bunch but all of us agree that these people have a ‘great’ future. Then there are other students, the ones who just don’t seem to fit in; they stay by themselves or in a small group, don’t talk too much, seem distracted/lost. These students pass out of school largely unnoticed. However, many a times a kid from the second group ends up doing hundred times better than a kid from the first one. Is it because these ‘lucky’ kids have more grit, passion and ambition than their counterparts? Maybe. But from what I have read (and seen) in my personal life, our societal expectations and conditioning have a large role to play in this.

The academically top students are always expected to stay ahead of the rat race. They have to have the best jobs, best homes, best cars and so on. They are expected to do well in life, take glamorous careers and in general, live the ‘model’ life. As a result, these students often become very scared of walking the off beat path. Since childhood, they have been competing with other equally competitive kids. Till now, they have managed to beat or at least stay up to date with these close competitors. Now this close competitor might be a neighbor’s son, your own elder sister or just an imaginary benchmark. Point is, at every point in life the ‘toppers’ are expected to do just as well as their benchmark did. This habit becomes so ingrained that these people can’t stop competiting even after college is over. Thus, the idea of leaving the job, undergoing hardship, contemplating failure etc seems very tough. Many would like to do things that they love but they aren’t willing to risk what they already have for it. As a result, most stick to the career they had chosen since their start and carry on with it. Ending up living a very comfortable life, without any major worries or troubles.

The ‘C’ students, on the other hand, have always been free of this burden of expectations. Their parents expect them to just get a job and live a happy life. These students aren’t expected to top exams and thus, they spend time exploring their surroundings, their passions and alternative careers. Some of these students stumble upon their passion and make it their future career. Thus, having it much easier. Others join jobs that aren’t so good. They have long work hours/poor pay/no respect/limited prospects etc. So the more ambitious ones decide to try out their luck in the outside world. After all, if I have to be a truck driver all my life, how’s a gap of 4 years selling vegetables going to hurt me. The above statement can’t be made about lawyers or consultants. Thus, a lot more of the C students end up trying out entrepreneurial ventures than A students. Many of these C students fail but they keep trying, either out of interest or due to lack of other options. A students, the moment they fail, go back to their comfortable life, convinced that entrepreneurship isn’t for them.

And that’s how our dear society, parental expectations and human tendency decide who opens startups and who doesn’t. The man with nothing to loose is often the one who gets to the top. The rest of us are often too busy defending what we have to really bother trying to get more.

4 thoughts on “Why toppers don’t open startups?

  1. I really like this – the social pressures you’re describing really do limit what people are willing to risk in order to get ahead. For me, I still remember back in college, when I told my mom I was planning on switching from engineering to writing. Oh, that didn’t go over well. But I was supposed to be one of those toppers, and writers don’t generally make it to the comfortable life. And I still haven’t. And it’s possible I never will. But, even if I do miss the things I “could have been” with an engineering degree, I know that now I’m doing the things I *have* to do, the things that personally get me going in the morning. And I think that counts for a lot more than what many of the toppers for life get to experience.

  2. Reblogged this on autography and other things and commented:
    This is such a good point – I really wish I could call up some of my past students to see if this describes how their lives turned out. But I think it is a trend that certain students are just “expected” to do well – they’re parents (and society) demand that they “make it.” And that really cuts off the chance to take risks. Especially with all these student loans people are taking on now. So…I am worried about what this means for us, in a world where technology is changing the shape of society so quickly. Will people be able to adapt to the new lives and jobs that open up? Or will we continue having all these people who demand *jobs* in a land where there are no jobs, only opportunities?

    1. Ryan: Yeah, very few people realize how rapidly the world around us is changing. With the advent of technology, it’s quite likely that jobs which were ‘safe’ and ‘dependable’ till just a few years ago, might be no longer needed. Where will those people go then? Conditioned, as we are by society, to follow conventional paths and to not take risks, such rapid change might be the undoing of many.

      1. I’ve wondered a lot about that myself. I particular, all those “I need a job” movements indicate to me that many people are not well prepared or positioned to use the new technologies in the kinds of new and interesting ways that would create new jobs and new ways of working. Part of it, too, is that we’re so far past subsistence living that it really isn’t clear what people “should” be doing. We need fewer farmers to produce the same crops, fewer factory workers to produce the same number of cars – clearly, people should learn be going the next step and building robots or designing rockets so we can actually have new places to build and explore. But without the innovation…we instead have many people who don’t have any way to fit themselves into the economy.

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