I found myself over at one of my favorite sites and read an article entitled, “Unfortunate Middle“. This thought provoking article laid the foundation for what would become my thoughts for the week.
Do me a favor. Head over there and read and enjoy the article as much as I did.
Escaping What It Means To Be Average
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. “
The world of average begins its slow, painless creep around our fifth year and solidifies itself in our lives by the time we turn twelve.
Before it leaves its mark on us, we are encouraged to live our lives under no set of rules or guidelines. Wake up when we want to wake up, dress how we want to dress, talk as we see fit and let our imagination rule how our life plays out. Yes, life before average is good, great even. Then, without recourse, average shows up, cripples our character and ruins who we are.
Its rules are strict and the repercussions fierce. Dress how I dress. Talk how I talk. Do as I do. Work as I work. Play as I play. Think as I think. Yes, it demands a lot and at the top of the demands is conformity.
The world wants average. It wants a species that is dedicated to following and not leading. It tries its best to breed complacency so that the patterns it sets aren’t questioned.
But why? Why does average work so hard to ensure that we all conform to its wants?
Simple. It is safe, controllable and easy to maintain.
Average is what the world expects and in return, it’s what the world gets.
Go ahead, explain to someone that there might be a different way of doing things and they will tell you that average doesn’t approve. Watch your friends comply to the demands that it sets and watch them fall back in line like trained soldiers the minute they question it.
How is it that for the first few years of our beautiful lives we ignore what it means to be average? Our thoughts are our own and our actions unbridled. We live our lives for the soul purpose to explore and learn. We do this so that we may become better versions of ourselves…and it works.
5 amazing years are spent reaching our full potential. We experience, we learn, and we apply what we learn all without worrying about what others think or what the repercussions of our actions might be. Then, through not fault of our own, average rips it all away. It begins to tell us how to communicate, dress, and act. It tells us what its definition of every imaginable thing is and does not accept anything else.
We follow average as it leads us blindly to our future without any thought of the path it leads us down. Even the lemming whose story is well-documented (even if incorrectly) understands average.
We are bred for one purpose and one purpose only…to be a productive member of society who does not stray too far away from average’s definition of the ideal human. And if we are brave enough to step outside of this definition, like the misguided lemming, we are destined to peril.
- Extra chores
- Loss of allowance
- More homework
The most striking part is that only here does it become complicated.
What if the scale of average, the one that is the measuring stick of the world, is a sliding scale that constantly reinvents itself when the definition or standard changes? What happens when something that is quantified as average today, becomes sub-average tomorrow?
Inflation as an example is the rate at which things increase in price. What if the rate of inflation increases above average? Will we be able to keep up with the new average or be buried under the rubble that is left behind?
It is these sorts of thoughts and events that result in so few people escaping what it means to be average.
If so, what’s the solution?
Maybe there isn’t one.
Perhaps, 95% of us are destined to be average, mediocre, or par at best. Maybe we are meant to form the majority so that they minority can flourish. Conceivably, the world sets it up this way to prevent a shift in power.
There are only a select few that have figured out what it means to escape.
- Nelson Mandela
- Elon Musk
- Jeff Bezos
- Richard Branson
- Harriet Tubman
- Martin Luther King
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Oskar Schindler
- Steve Jobs
Why? Because for every time that someone attempts to escape, average gives them everything it has to hold them back.
It is this initial backlash that prevents most from escaping, even if the backlash only lasts for a short period of time.
Backlash or not, it is possible to escape.
Before you begin your ascension above average understand that the idea is of escaping is simple in its design but difficult in its execution. To escape means to change the way that we view ourselves. It means to not only tell ourselves but to convince ourselves that we are more than average. It means to throw caution to the wind and learn to learn again. We must relearn what it means to live on our own accord and not the accord of average. Then, and only then do we have a chance at changing the way we perceive ourselves.
We must learn to correct the way we talk about ourselves. Even if the words we say as we begin aren’t necessarily true, speaking through repetition subconsciously challenges our beliefs while ingraining new ones.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle.
Begin to replace “I’m overweight, I earn the industry average, I attract the bottom feeders, or I’m boring” with “I’m an athlete, I set the industry average, I attract only the best, and I’m the life of the party and everybody wants to be around me.” Change how you perceive yourself and the world will organically change how it perceives you.
Just as important, realize that Oscar Wilde was right the moment he uttered the words,
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Remember, average breeds conformity.
In saying this, I caution that Oscar did not mean for us to be ourselves as the world sees us. Instead, he means for us to be ourselves as we see ourselves. We must revert back to pre-average and step away from the confines of post-average. Embrace the way you are and live your life the way you see fit and not the way average tells you to.
I remind you that average is a sliding scale and to consistently remain above it means to try new things and reinvent oneself. In any of the above examples, you will notice that each of them did exactly this…over and over again.
- Nelson Mandela – Imprisoned for 27 years, released and was elected President
- Elon Musk – Zip2, Paypal, SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City
- Jeff Bezos – Amazon, Washington Post, Investor in Airbnb, Basecamp, Twitter, Uber
- Richard Branson – Virgin Records, Megastore, Galactic, Radio, Vacation, Care, etc.
- Harriet Tubman – Born into slavery, escaped and returned to aid others in escaping
- Martin Luther King – Clergyman, Activist, Nobel Peace Prize Winner
- Mahatma Gandhi – Lawyer turned inspirational leader freeing India from British rule.
- Oskar Schindler – German industrialist who saved 1000’s of lives during the holocaust
- Steve Jobs – Apple, MacIntosh, Pixar, Next, Apple
- Bono – Musician, Activist, Difference maker
All that aside, I must take a moment to defend average.
I don’t always condemn average. I realize that there is a place in the world for it. The world is where it finds itself because of average, and due to it, the world will continue to evolve.
Even having this realization, my concern is still twofold. First, the pace at which average operates in unsustainable and second, as we have seen, the more it evolves, the more many of us are left behind.
If I may ask one final question? If your desire is to escape average, what are you doing right now to see that happen?
Cheers to your success,
Title Image © Quinn Dombrowski