While everyone else seeks to inflate their egos with endless accolades and accomplishments, we should seek to be below average. Here's why.
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Derek Sivers once wrote an article about hubris:
Ninety-six percent of cancer patients claim to be in better health than the average cancer patient. Ninety-four percent of professors say they are better-than-average teachers. Ninety percent of students think they are more intelligent than the average student. Ninety-three percent of drivers say they are safer-than-average drivers. When I learned this, it shook my soul. At first, like almost everybody, I thought, “Yes, but I really am above average!” Then I realized I was doing it again. So I decided to gamble on the opposite. Now I just assume I’m below average.
This is quite the realization.
But when you factor in the well-known (yet seldom accounted for) Pareto Principle, you realize that exactly the opposite is true.
Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the land owners, thus forming the basis of the 80/20 principle.
Let’s say that we have 5 land owners. According to Pareto, one land owner has 16 acres and the other four have 1 acre each. This means that the average (mean) land owner has 4 acres of land!
This means that 80% of people are not just below average but they are way below average!
Now you could argue that the median land owner has 1 acre, which is true. But the mean is not meaningless. This is how they come up with the statistics saying that the average Americans family has 2.2 kids. Surely that is less meaningful than the division of land.
This doesn’t just play out with land, though. Pareto noticed this with money, sales, success, his IG followers, and pretty much anything he could count.
Sivers gambles on being below average, but it’s the safest bet you could make.
What’s dangerous is gambling on being above-average. It will be your downfall if you’re wrong.
Yet it plays perfectly into the broken mindset of the newbie entrepreneurs who have been told all their lives that they are special and that success will come to them if they only want it badly enough.
“You just need a mentor! Buy my coaching program!” Or so the pitch usually goes.
Realizing that we’re below average isn’t to say that you should give up out of a crushing sense of despair that you’ll never be good enough.
It’s to say that you should valiantly pursue your mission while acting as if you’re below average. Don’t cut corners or rest on your laurels. Listen more and talk less. Do good work and be proud of it.
In this way, being a below average person gives you an advantage.
The mindset of an ambitious person who believes themselves to be below average is the mindset of a lifelong learner. A student of the craft, pursuing mastery.
This is the type of person I want to be. It’s the type of person I want to be friends with. And it’s the type of person I want to work with.
While everyone else seeks to inflate their egos with endless accolades and accomplishments, perhaps we should seek to be below average. Or at the very least, act like it.