At some point in our little journey on this big floating rock we discover something about ourselves.Some of us discover we might actually be pretty good at some stuff and being good at that stuff actually has some value, so for all intensive purposes, if you’re one of these people, you kind of won the game!
First, congratulations. I’m truly happy for you.
Second, don’t get too cocky. The thing you might be good at is for some reason people find your appearance pleasing. So, you won by having strong appearance DNA. It’s not like you’re a brain surgeon or a popular influencer or something. You’re just good looking and food doesn’t make you fat, or maybe it does and that’s why people like you, who the hell knows why anyone wins the game anymore.
Some of us will find out we’re just average. There is actually nothing overly special about who we are and what we do. If we are lucky we’ll find another average person to fall in love with us, and we can average children, and hang with average friends, do average stuff on the weekends. Life doesn’t suck, it’s “fine”.
A few of us will find we basically suck at almost everything. Life is hard for those who suck. As the saying goes, it sucks to suck. That’s life, some great ones, a bunch of average ones, and few sucky ones. The problem with life is most people think they are either great or above average. No one thinks they suck (okay, some do, but properly medicated and with the right therapy that usually goes away), and almost no one thinks they’re average.
What do we do when 80% of those people we know don’t know they’re average?
I mean, I usually just tell them straight up after about three or four gin and tonics. Look dude, I love you, and that’s my own downfall, but you’re average. I mean, we can still hang, because I’m only slightly above average as compared to you, so we’re cool. That mostly doesn’t work, which is why I write on this blog and don’t hang with real friends, but in the end, I think those people who I wanted to be my friends will value straight-shooting.
I read this week that for every $1 I spend, that’s like Bill Gates spending $2.8 million dollars. If Bill Gates spent $1 million dollars per day, it would take him four hundred years to spend all of this money. Even after the divorce, or maybe even more with the divorce, Bill won the game.
$1 to $2.8 million puts into perspective the difference between average and great. It’s not just Bill is probably slightly better than you and me. He’s on a different planet! In fact, he could actually be on a different planet if he wanted.
We confuse being slightly above average, or even just better than the crappy person working next to us, that we must be great. But, just because you’re the tallest of the seven dwarfs doesn’t make you tall. The only way this concept works is if you’re slightly better than someone you know is great, not average or below average.
Every single generation has an issue with being average. We don’t want to be labeled as average we want to be extraordinary when 80% are just plain ordinary. I think this is mostly due to how we define average. The actual definition is: “a number expressing the central or typical value in a set of data, in particular the mode, median, or (most commonly) the mean, which is calculated by dividing the sum of the values in the set by their number.”
What does that mean? It means if we lined up a hundred people you would be number 50, or 49 or 51-ish. Basically, there would be 49 people better than you and 49 people worse than you. You’re in the middle. For those of you who are a middle child, think of it as your older sister is better than you, but you are better than your younger brother. Middle children tend to have better insight into the concept of being average.
Embrace Your Averageness!
Here’s the thing, being average has its perks! The Perks of being average:
- No one really expects anything from you. At best, the only hope is you just don’t screw stuff up!
- It’s super easy to keep your job when you’re average because all the focus goes to the ones that suck, and all the hard, important work goes to the ones who are great.
- Average people tend to live a happier life because of the lower expectations people have towards them.
- Being average, and embracing it, opens you up to way more friends and people to hang out with since most of the world is average. If you believe you are superior, it’s really slim pickings when it comes to folks you want to hang out with!
- The selection of mates for romantic relationships really increases! I mean imagine all those people with hickies you can choose from when you set your sights appropriately!
So, what if you’re just average? Well, you are. Or statistically thinking, you are more likely to be than anything else. And that’s okay. I mean, unless, you truly want to be great.
Here’s the thing I find annoying, if we can agree that most people are average, why are all the job posts (at least the ones I look at), always looking for a “rockstar,” “unicorn” or the equivalent? Let me guess, you want the person who is:
– expert at data analysis
– very creative
– excellent communicator (verbal and written)
– highly organized
– extremely driven
– plus other job-specific skills
These are all unique attributes, and some are at odds with one another. These poor companies just can’t find enough talent (boo hoo), and despite dozens (if not hundreds) of applicants, many job ads will sit on boards for months going unfilled. The system is filled with people who are above average (B+, good college, hard workers, smart), and some of them have done quite well and others are toiling in mediocrity. Meanwhile you have all the top companies (who are only getting bigger and dominating more industries), who only want the very best and the brightest, essentially telling the rest of us that we’re not good enough (unless you want to work in an Amazon warehouse or the like).
Well, there are only so many who have perfect test scores and GPAs and get to go to an Ivy League school or MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, etc. Meanwhile, there are plenty of high performers out there who will never be considered.
I mean, if you are looking for a very specific skill set, like an engineer who knows certain programming languages and can produce elegant solutions to difficult problems, that’s one circumstance. But for many other positions, I believe the B+ people are going to do an admirable job (and likely cost less and be more likely to stick with an organization for a longer period of time). So why all the Talent snobbery?
Well, pretty much it’s because HR and TA pros (which I’m one of) suck at marketing, so we think it’s cute and effective to say “rockstar” and “ninja” but it’s mostly just bad marketing. So, I agree with you.
In terms of why does every job want above average? Well, because you do not want to be the HR/TA person who goes to the CEO and says, “Yeah, we just hired David and he’s super average!”
Tim, I started my professional career working for a company that believed we were all average people working together to achieve extraordinary results. I believe we need the great ones to help move things forward, but in a lot of ways, the average people then need to interpret the move forward ideas for the rest of us to be able to adapt to using them. So in some ways, the “C” students do run the world. It takes everyone to keep moving forward and I think that is your point. Always glad to see your perspective! Keep it coming, it helps us average people continue to grow!
Is it bad that I’m ok with average? I’d consider myself average, with sprinkles of greatness and sucky-ness along the way. Great quote I heard a high level Exec say; this Exec runs a company with 250K+ employees operating in 23 countries – so truly a Global Exec (yep, I read your blogs regularly Tim!). He said “It’s the C students who run the world”. I wasn’t a C student, but it hit home for me.
First, I love the quote, and also, that quote is a lie! 😉 C-student do not run the world, but because the vast majority of us are average, we want to believe that quote is true!
Second, I think you are right. We are all mostly average with times of greatness and suckiness. Also, I think it’s completely fine with someone saying, “I’m average and I’m okay with that”. Over the past decade or so, we’ve had hustle and success porn jammed down our throats. Social media plays a huge role in this as well. We begin to think everyone is great and we suck. When in reality everyone is just like us, and very few are great or suck.
Keep being Average!