Those Valedictorians

By Zig Ziglar

September 11, 2019 3 min read

An issue of Parade Magazine featured the results of a long-term study of 81 class valedictorians conducted by Professor Terry Denney of the University of Illinois.

His quest was to find out whether or not they succeeded. The answer is yes, they were successful, but as a group, the discovery was that they stand apart in how hard they work. He gave them standardized tests that measure motivation to work hard, and the discovery was that they knocked the top off the work scale compared to any other group. However, on the standardized ACT test, which measures some intellectual skills, the valedictorian scores varied ranging from just average for college-bound students up to the top percentile. Conclusion: They're not always the brightest kids in school; they are the hardest working.

Message: While brains are important, commitment, responsibility, persistence and hard work are qualities that 100 percent of us can acquire and use to significant advantage.

Most of these valedictorians were responsible young people who made good decisions on the practical side of life, determining which course was best suited for them, then working until they achieved their objectives. Results: Almost 60% of the valedictorians have graduate degrees, three are doctors, six are lawyers, 10 are MBAs and 15 are Ph.D.s. Interestingly enough, none of the valedictorians in the study has become famous or even a leader in his or her profession. Associate Professor Karen Arnold of Boston College, who became director of the project when Professor Denney retired in 1986, observed that most of us, if we made the effort, could achieve comparable success. I agree. I've seen too many "average kids" with above average commitment and work ethic who made it big, which gave them something to smile about.

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