So I'm taking an online course in audio production (recording, sound waves, etc.) right now, and one of the most surprisingly difficult things about it has been adjusting to the fact that my grade doesn't matter. In some way this is partly because it's a free introductory class, so I don't have anything to lose, but realistically, even if I paid a thousand bucks for the class, it still wouldn't matter if I failed. Getting a failing grade doesn't mean that I retroactively unlearn anything I learned up in the class. It doesn't prevent me from learning more or getting better or getting a job. It's completely, utterly insignificant, and I've been trained my whole life to pretend that it is.
The homework in the class is worth 30% of the final grade, and it looks boring and tedious and largely uncreative, so I just decided not to do it. But it's frankly ridiculous how much I strained over making this decision. I immediately recognized the homework* as being something that would not have a significant impact in my learning the material, but that threat of getting a poor grade in the class even though that means nothing whatsoever was still enough to make me reconsider that decision half a dozen times. It's painful to admit just how brainwashed this experience has made me feel.
Grades don't matter. Just need to keep reminding myself that until it sinks in. And I think that if I had had the opportunity to have a more self-directed experience in school that didn't focus on getting grades it would have been a lot more valuable, because that would have better fit the way that I learn things.
(*In case you're curious, the homework each week is to prepare a lesson plan for some of that week's material, present it to others, and then to peer-review five other peoples' lessons. Nope. Not doing that.)