What’s wrong with being average?

It is easy to bash on the idea of “being average”. You hear it in personal development and success literature all of the time.

In theory, it sounds good. Why be ordinary, when you can be extraordinary?

In practice, things are quite different.

What does ‘average’ mean? Is it in your peer group? In your university or company? In your country, or around the world? Average for each of these groups can and will be drastically different. In general, ‘average’ is relative, and it is important to know what you are talking about when you speak averages.

Across any population, there will always be an average. And in many real-world distributions, the majority of the population will end up around the average. Even if you guaranteed “success” to everyone in the world, there would still be an average. It would just be shifted up. In that case, is it so bad to be average? Statistically, most people will fall around an average. Telling everyone not to be average is a little strange.

Average isn’t necessarily good or bad. I am  very near the average height and weight. What does that mean to you?

Average doesn’t encompass your life story. If you were raised by homeless parents, but through hard work got to a position where you made an average American salary, what does that mean? Is it extraordinary or average?

Average doesn’t encompass your ambitions. Two people may have average American jobs. One might be doing it to support his meth habit, and the other is using it as a career stepping stone.

Average seems to simplify and summarize a person down to a simple characteristic: average or un-average. In all actuality, there are so many different sides to a person I don’t even know where to start. What if you are average in most dimensions, but extraordinary in one?

In the end, talking about averages clouds the issue.

Defining a person by averages doesn’t mean anything.

So, what has meaning? Having the self awareness to know what you are, and what you want to be.

Is the average career OK with you? Glad you know what you want. Go for it!

Do you want to be the best damn parent that you can be? Well, forget about the average, and be the best damn parent that you can be.

Repeat this across all aspects of your life, and you’ll be set.

Chances are you will be some kind of average in many aspects in life. Statistically, that is how it works out. You may also be extraordinarily awesome or un-awesome in some aspects of life.

Again, it all doesn’t matter: just know what you are and what you want to be.

P.S. This is post number #17 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

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7 thoughts on “What’s wrong with being average?

  1. I think the problem isn’t with being average, but being content with it. You’re going to average in most of the aspects of your life. Sure. But, isn’t that undermining the constant strive for improvement we should have. This strive for improvement has led humanity to the life it leads today with the tools and inventions that make it so much easier on us.
    If man was once content with the speed of an average horse, the transportation we use today was never going to be possible.
    If man was ever please to live an average lifespan of forty years, he was never going to improve his habits and culture. Ones which allows us to live nearly twice as longer. I’m talking about each aspect of the human community – accommodation, provision, medicine and knowledge.
    So you see, where I’m going for is that being okay with average is something that’s counter productive and somewhat degrading. By striving to improve yourself, you join that same strive of the entire humanity towards prosper and success.
    You are just an cell in the entire organism. Alone you don’t do much, but together you drive the most complex structure we know of.
    In the end it’s inevitable to be un-average in most aspects of your life, but by not having the desire to be exceptional, you never will be anyway. You will never get to the top, if you’re content with just the middle. And, while you can’t be the top in everything, you should be the top in at least something.
    Of course, depending on the scale, you can be from the worst to the best at the same thing. However, the only scale you should be aiming for is the largest. What I mean by this is if you’re the best cook in the world you’re amazing, but if you’re the best cook in your family, most likely you’re just average.
    And by far, being a just average cook is perfectly fine, especially when I, myself am below-average in the kitchen. However, if you want to be a good cook, you shouldn’t be aiming to be the best in the family…because that’s average. By aiming at the biggest scale (e.g. the world), you will always be aiming at the exceptional.
    I don’t think this question will ever have a definitive answer, so It’s perfectly normal the answer to vary with each person asked. While, I perfectly accept you’re side of the moon, I can’t help but stick with mine. However, it’s nice food for thought and I’m glad I found this post.

    • Hi Audrey,

      I think we are talking about different things.

      I agree with you that it is important to strive for things. Mankind moves forward because we push to learn, build, and grow. However, for a single person, it is important to understand your nature and your limitations. Even if you strive for it, you can’t be excellent at everything. You can’t be a perfect spouse, child, parent, athlete, rocket scientist, computer scientist, plumber, manager/leader, preacher, etc. all at the same time. Something has to give. So we choose what matters, and try our best with the limited time we have on earth. Even with all our effort, we may not be the best in the world (most likely we won’t). Along the way, we will be average in many things, and just plain bad at many other things. That is fine.

      All I’m trying to say is that I hate people bash on being average. As I wrote, it just clouds the issue. Most of the time, the person saying it is trying to sell you something (a book, program, workshop, seminar, whatever). The only thing that matters is to know what you want to be (as well as what you won’t be) and try to live it.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  2. No, I actually agree with you. (might not sound like it) I don’t bash average, as I’m aware I’m average in most aspects of my life. What I bash is being okay with average. Even though you might never even reach a certain phase, I think it’s important to always try hard to take another step further. You might not be able to, you might even fall to a previous step in the staircase, but you have to try it anyway.
    At least that’s my perspective.

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