Work Habits

My oldest daughter just brought home her report card. It was straight A’s, along with a note: “work habits need developing.”

Um… do they?

Generally speaking, I don’t think “straight A’s” is a laudable goal. Since the actual impact on your life is exactly the same if you sprinkle in a few B’s or even a C here and there, if you worked hard enough to get straight A’s you probably wasted a good bit of effort on overkill.

That is, unless you managed to get those grades without having to work very hard. In that case, I think your work habits are pretty much exactly correct for the task, don’t you?

There are all sorts of problems with the scenario, of course. If she’s getting straight A’s while visibly slacking off, then clearly she needs more challenge. And in the real world, she could seek it – it’s only in the strangely arbitrary world of grade school that people feel the need to control your work habits without actually matching them to an appropriate task.

You see, I know my daughter. She’s an incredibly hard (and diligent, and intelligent) worker when those are the things required for success. Watch her painting, practicing karate, or selling Girl Scout cookies and you’ll see a very disciplined and fastidious person. But she’s also savvy – savvy enough to recognize that a “work habits need developing” note on her report card counts for exactly nothing and can be safely ignored.

The idea that she should practice better work habits so that she can be prepared for some potential future challenge is ludicrous. That’s not how it works. You have to give her the challenge now, and everything it takes to beat that challenge will manifest as she faces it. So it’s time to up her challenge level, not keep her in the kiddie pool but have her pretend to swim.

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