Giving the “A” Grade for the Person You’ll Become

Grading the A

I’m flying to Tokyo for the weekend, which I’d say is a long story but it’s actually a short one. I have a meeting with my local publisher and I need miles to requalify for American Airlines elite status—so I’m heading out for a super-quick Japan adventure.

On my connecting flight to LAX this afternoon I was re-reading an old book, The Art of Possibility.

In an early section, one of the authors wrote about teaching a course where he decided to award an “A” to every student right from the beginning. He had a specific requirement for the students, however. They had to write a letter to him from the future, explaining why they deserved the perfect grade.

In writing their letters, I say to them, they are to place themselves in the future, looking back, and to report on all the insights they’ve acquired and milestones they attained during the year as if those accomplishments were already in the past. Everything must be written in the past tense. Phrases such as “I hope,” I intend,” or “I will” must not appear.

The students may, if they wish, mention specific goals reached or competitions won. “But,” I tell them, “I am especially interested in the person you will become by the time you send the letter.”

I am interested in the attitudes, feelings, and worldview of that person who will have done all she wished to do or become everything he wanted to be. I tell them I want them to fall passionately in love with the person they are describing in the letter.

The exercise is good because it focuses on stated accomplishments, even though they haven’t yet occurred.

In just a couple of months I’ll be kicking off my Annual Review. Last year it got a bit sidetracked due to a book tour of India, so this time I hope to do it properly.

If you’ve followed the Annual Review before, if you’re interested in doing it this year, or even if you just like the idea of reordering your life to become a better self, start thinking like the students who had the assignment to write this letter.

Looking back in a few months, how will you have achieved your goals and shifted your attitudes?

Think on that… if you want. I’m off to Japan and will be back after the weekend.

– Chris


Image: Pjern

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