Most of us who are, ahem, long out of high school already know this, but author of The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, Alexandra Robbins, is here to confirm: former geeks make more successful adults than popular kids. Robbins’s focus is on perceived popularity (that is, those noted as being “most popular”) rather than actual popularity (people who are actually liked by their peers). The distinction is crucial: well-liked students tend to be well-liked adults, whereas those who gain popularity by superficial means (dress, money, extra-curricular activity) typically experience a drop-off in influence after graduation.
The reasoning behind Robbins’s theory is two-fold and perhaps unsurprising. For one, students who are considered outsiders in school because they resist conformity and herd mentality are more likely to take career risks and be unconventional thinkers than their more popular peers. A shift toward less-traditional management in large companies (Google, for instance) means that those with the ability to think beyond current standards are valuable assets. Secondly, those who strive for perceived popularity learn behaviors and adopt attitudes–such as social visibility and conformity–that make for mediocre and safe-playing grown-ups.
The research is fascinating and the idea, while obvious to some (ahem, [GAS] readers) is one that is gaining sure footing in a world that is finally shedding the cookie-cutter idea of success and role models. Robbins’s book, fully titled The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School, was released in the US on May 3, 2011. You can purchase the book on Amazon.com right here for $12.99 (50% off.)