When a (low) GPA doesn’t predict future success

32-year-old Ezra Klein is the editor-in-chief of Vox, a news organization featuring articles, videos, newsletters, and podcasts that combine to reach over 100 million people each month. He was also a columnist at The Washington Post, a policy analyst at MSNBC, and a contributor to Bloomberg. And he was named one of the 50 most powerful people in Washington by GQ.

But as he revealed recently on Tim Ferriss’s podcast, in 2002, Klein was just a kid graduating from high school with a 2.2 GPA and no real idea what he wanted to do with his life.

Klein doesn’t necessarily credit his college with his turnaround that led to such remarkable success. But he is an example of several themes I write about often here:

  • The traditional measures of success in high school did not accurately reflect his capabilities. In fact, he talks about how liberating it was to finally find areas where his strengths could be put to use.
  • He had the curiosity and initiative to pursue what he eventually discovered interested him.
  • He made the most of the opportunities that presented themselves.
  • He bounced back from failures and, in fact, today says, “The things that I wanted and didn’t get are extreme blessings.”

This podcast discussion actually had little to do with politics and far more to do with the path of Klein’s success, where he came from, how he took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves, how he bounced back from failure, and who helped him along the way.

Ferriss does start the podcast with three minutes of self-promotion and sponsor pitching, which seems excessive to me. But if you’d like to hear from an honest, open, successful person who wasn’t at the top of his high school class but had a lot to offer and found a way to do so, the interview, which you can find here, is well worth a listen.

It’s not that high school classes and grades aren’t important. In fact, a student who blows off academics as unimportant is eliminating both options and opportunities. That’s a risky strategy, and not one that I’d recommend.

But Klein’s interview is a nice reminder that regardless of your GPA, who you are in high school is not necessarily a mold for who you’ll be or what you’ll become in the future.