Most of my girlfriends who make more than $100K a year were cheerleaders in school. We are from all over the United States. We are from all different types of companies. Only a few of us can do the splits. Yet we all bounced in short skirts and cheered for boys.
I chalked this up to coincidence until I conducted further studies:
Study #1 The education study
I was never the kid who got A’s. I was the kid who developed arcane strategies to pass class. An example: For my high school junior thesis — which was an amazing (for a high school junior) 15 pages — I leveraged my debate-team evidence on torture weapons in Somalia to compose a paper on ethics, which was not particularly well written but was well received because of the perceived time spent researching.
After hiding my academic mediocrity for years, I was gathering bios for a business plan when I realized that I was surrounded by business geniuses who had been mediocre students. I removed everyone’s education credentials from the plan — even those for the guy who was very high up in a prominent worldwide company.
Conclusion: Success in business and success in school are not linked and do not require the same skills.
Study #2 The personality study
When I worked in software marketing my company had a training day. The whole company piled into a hotel that was too fancy for an all-company meeting unless there was something bad coming.
The CEO announced that one of the most common downfalls of fast-growing companies was poor communication. He told us that the corporate psychologist on stage with him would make sure our company did not have this problem.
Then the psychologist gave us all personality tests.
We circled words. We filled in boxes. We tried not to look at the page of the person next to us when the person next to us might notice.
We graded ourselves because the psychologist promised, “There are no wrong answers. We’re finding out who we are so we can communicate that to our teammates.”
I glanced at the CEO to make sure that given the choice of perfection or power, he also chose power: I didn’t want to admit to power mongering if the other power mongers would not.
The results, surprisingly, were not surprising. Once we understood the basics, everything fell into place. The psychologist told us that people are motivated by one of four areas:
1. Power and achievements
2. Friendships and other relationships
3. Having fun
4. Keeping peace and finding truth
Conclusion: All senior managers at our company were motivated by power and achievements — except the VP for sales, who was motivated by relationships.
After analyzing these two in-depth studies, I have concluded that while a position on the dean’s list does not necessarily signal a good business career ahead, a position on the cheerleading squad does.
A girl who joins the cheerleading squad is a performer, a leader, and has a nose for where the power is. In high school, money is not the issue — boys are. And girls on the cheerleading squad get more of this currency than girls on the dean’s list.
So when your daughter wants to be a cheerleader, discourage it, of course. For all the same reasons that my friends and I do not put pictures of ourselves as cheerleaders on our desks at work.
But Peggy Orenstein writes, in her New York Times article What’s Wrong with Cinderella?, that there is no discouraging girls from wanting to be princesses. So I think there is probably no discouraging girls from wanting to be cheerleaders, either. In that case, the good news is that the cheerleader thing is a sign of good things to come.