I was having a conversation yesterday with some new colleagues and we were talking about those mundane ice breaking activities that everyone who works a 9 to 5 is familiar with. Specifically, we were chatting about the “name something interesting about yourself“” ice breaker.
Ya know, where have to do a quick talent or say something about special about yourself?
I once sat two rows away from Jack Nicohlson at a Lakers game.
I am really good at rolling my rrrrrrs.
We were chatting about this and some members of the group were expressing how frustrating it can be to come up with something unique on the spot.
The consensus seemed to be that we are all pretty average and that beyond silly little talents and random personal anecdotes, there wasn’t a whole lot that wasn’t average about us.
Clearly, I had issue with that but it begged the larger question… what does being average really mean?
In my experience, being average boils down to one simple mindset. It is a self-limiting mindset and is something that most people likely don’t even realize they possess but they allow it to dictate the direction and vision of their life.
That mindset is one of entitlement.
The fastest way to live an average life is to feel like you deserve certain elements of success just because you exist and posses certain qualities..
I have a job – I should be paid accordingly.
I have a college degree – my skills are relevant.
I am strong, fit and of average weight – I should have my ideal partner in life.
I have an above average IQ – I am destined for greatness.
I am a great coder and developer – I should be working for an innovative company.
This is a lean-back approach to the world and creates averageness. Pure and simple. It is sometimes referred to as illusory superiority and is based on the assumption that you deserve certain things in life.
That is only the first aspect, however. More importantly. Average is the natural habit that we all possess to return to what is comfortable. A sense of entitlement empowers this as we feel that returning to this comfortable state will not have an effect on our life’s success. It is a deflection of responsibility on our part. You may not realize it, but this assumption is what is holding you back. It is what is allowing you to constantly return to a state of average.
I get a lot of emails from people asking, “how do I become better than average?”, “how do I stop being average” or “how do I change my life by living according to purpose?“
While I think this question accurately identifies the fact that being average is theoretically something to be avoided, I think the question deserves more examination.
Borrowing from Aaron Webber, CEO of Webber Investments, the goal shouldn’t be so much to change your life to avoid being average, but rather, to define and refine your own average in such a way that it leads to more inspired state of average.
Here is what I mean.
To be extraordinary, you have to define your own average.
Webber points out the statistical concept of reversion to the mean – whereby statically speaking, you will always return to your average.
You can experience moments of great success, innovation and daring. You can also experiences failures and fall flat on your ass. Either way, you will ultimately return to your average state.
Given this, the best course of action isn’t so much to avoid doing what everyone else is doing.
Rather, to stop being average, you should strive to create your own mean, your own average that is driven by sense of action, responsibility and results.
You are naturally going to return to your natural average self, so you should strive to make it as unique, driven and as purposeful as possible.
For me, that is the most effective way to stop being average. First, recognize that no matter hard you try, there will be times where you return to average. It is a comfortable state made even more comfortable by the pervasiveness of it in society.
Instead of trying to “not be average” in the strict definitive sense, create your own average that is defined by vision rather than comfort.
Here are five areas of focus to help you create an average state that is anything but “average.”
Have the right mindset.
In my experience, this is the most important aspect of creating your own average. Sure, some people fall into great success. Randomness and luck also play a part, for sure. But, in my experience, its your mindset and vision that is going to lead you in the right direction. Here are a couple ‘lean-forward’ mindset tweaks that I have adopted in my life, allowing me to not only envision my ideal state of average by becoming more confident in myself, but to also help me avoid returning to it.
Zig when they zag
I don’t mean this in the cliche sense of “be and do something different.” I mean it in the sense that if you see people zigging, ask yourself why they aren’t zagging, understand the situation and then proceed accordingly. Think differently, ask questions of the status quo and move forward as you see fit. Without this questioning mindset, you are surely destined for the status quo average.
Put pressure on yourself
This one takes balls but is the most direct way to light fire on your journey. My buddy Matt from differenthunger.com did it by quitting his job and moving to Columbia to start his own freelance company. My friend Joshua Brueckner from Air Tailor created his startup out of necessity when he had no job to lean on. I’m not saying that everyone should up and quit their job, but I am encouraging you to cast aside the things that are holding you back because they are comfortable. Act with purpose to give yourself less time and less comfort than you need to start achieving. You’ll be amazed at what you can create and achieve when your back is up against the wall, when you are forced to succeed.
Do what successful people do
Duh! As obvious as this is, I see far too many people trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to success. Identify what has been done well, and improve on it. Do this by studying the habits and development strategies of those who have been there and done that. These folks clearly have purpose in their life, so follow their example.
Go up against the big boys
At the same time, don’t be afraid to learn from the best, and then compete against them! Don’t stray away from a challenge because it has been approached and already “done” by someone else. It is yours for the taking. Enter into an environment where you know you’ll be disadvantaged. This forces you to think outside of the box and will further help you avoid returning to average.
Don’t do what you normally do.
Stop watching TV. Stop doing brunch every Sunday. Stop wasting time on social media or playing video games.
Develop your skills
What makes one athlete better than another? Their skills! They offer their team or their sport more value because, well… they are better.
To create an average that is less average than the average (whoa), you have to offer value in the area of your life that you have decided to dedicate yourself to. Either your profession, career, development, passions, etc. Whatever it is, you have to not only have the skills to pay the bills, but also skills that are better than everyone else. This is not something that is going to come from doing what everyone else is doing. This is not going to happen by continuing to work the same hours and develop your skills at the same rate as everyone else.
You are going to have to dedicate yourself to developing your craft.
I didn’t know a single thing about social media 11 months ago. But I threw my hat in the ring and decided to dedicate myself to learning and executing. Flash forward to today and PRSUIT has over 100,000 followers on Instagram and across our other properties. Skills.
If your brain is filled with the same garbage as a lot of your peers, your average is average.
If want to create something with your passion that offers value and that will outlast you, you’re going to build this using your brain.
Your brain is hungry. Feed it!
It comes down to education. Whether you decide to read more (these books are a great start for marketers), listen to podcasts, use mind exercises or brain games, learn languages, etc, whatever it is, take responsibility for what you put into your brain. Continue to build on your skills, become an expert in it and exercise your brain. Be relentlessly hungry and commit to it.
You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with. It’s true.
My life has completely changed from ‘lean-back’ to ‘lean-forward’ when I started prioritizing people with similar values, goals and visions.
Most of the time, your average will be borrowed from that of your friends. Whether you realize it or not, the strongest influence in your life is that of those you hang out with most frequently.
If their vision for their lives is status quo, so will yours.
Quit screwin’ around
Have a sense of urgency! Saying you want to change your life, stop being average and live your dream is something you need to start pursuing today. Not tomorrow. If you want to make a million dollars on the side in the next three years, then get started today!
In conclusion, the best way to avoid being average is to remember that all average is, is returning to your natural state. If you develop your life, take responsibility for your actions and have vision, your natural state will be anything but average. Strive to create this for yourself.
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