Why Jack Ma Told His Own Son Not to Be an ‘A’ Student in School

Jack Ma, whose current net worth sits at $40.8 billion, has practical advice for his son on education.

Speaking at the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, the Alibaba founder shared about never getting a “great education” himself.

“I was born in a very poor family. I never got a great education. I failed examinations for what reason, I don’t know.”

Without money, tech knowledge and “good background” — “whoever rich uncle or something” — he later realized that he can only look forward to the future.

“Let’s compete 10 years later. This is what I believe [in] 10 years will be happening. So everything I do for that goal. I know 10 years later, this thing is gonna happen, so prepare for that.”

Jack Ma
via YouTube / World Economic Forum

Ma’s insightful words remain true to what he told his son years back. Tech in Asia translated this excerpt from Red Flag Publishing’s “Jack Ma’s Internal Speeches: Trust in Tomorrow”:

“I told my son: you don’t need to be in the top three in your class, being in the middle is fine, so long as your grades aren’t too bad. Only this kind of person [a middle-of-the-road student] has enough free time to learn other skills.”

“I think, if China’s economy wants to develop, it needs a lot of SMEs and individually-run companies, and that requires a lot of entrepreneurs with values and drive.”

Jack Ma
via Wikimedia Commons / Rico Shen (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ma’s fatherly advice is unconventional per Chinese norms, where emphasis on academic excellence permeates virtually all of a student’s life. The gaokao, the nation’s make-or-break college entrance examination, is the perfect testament to this.

But clearly, Ma is teaching his son to look at the world from a different lens — and that’s exactly the route many are taking today.

He urged the crowd at the WEF meeting:

“We cannot teach our kids to compete with the machines who are smarter — we have to teach our kids something unique. In this way, 30 years later, kids will have a chance.”

Jack Ma
via YouTube / World Economic Forum

The takeaway? You don’t need to be the best in class (and definitely not the worst, either), but find time to learn unique skills that makes you special. After all — that’s what worked for Ma!

Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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