After you get your 4.0

Then what? Do you ride off into the sunset? Retire to a beach in Costa Rica? Does your mom put a bumper sticker on her car to celebrate your minor scholastic achievements? Does anything happen, at all?

The world is basically the same the moment before and the moment after you get your 4.0. The only thing that’s changed is your own mind: Your ego has inflated, and your fear has grown, because now you have to keep getting 4.0’s just to feel the same way about yourself.

This might be controversial, so cover your eyes if you can’t handle it: A 3.8 is good enough. A 3.5 is good enough. A 3.0 is good enough. Hell, a 2.5 or a 2.0 might be good enough. The ideal GPA will vary by person, but it’s certain that diminishing returns exist. Eating two Snicker’s bars isn’t necessarily better than eating one.

“But Ryan, wouldn’t I be setting my standards lower? Isn’t that everything you preach against?” Standards, to me, are important, but only up to a point. The thing is, Elon Musk didn’t build a car with better gas mileage; he built the Tesla. Jeff Bezos didn’t build an excellent store; he moved shopping online.

You need to get all your ducks in a row–and if you have a 4.0 you’ve done that and more–but most people don’t know what to do with the ducks once they’re lined up. You can get really good at playing the game of academics, but once you’ve won it you need to find a new game.

The new game might begin with these questions: “How can I actually make a change in the world with all this knowledge I’ve built up? How can I be useful? How can I make the group better?”