It is Not Okay to be Average!
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, December 5, 2016
Before you can contemplate that statement you first have to define what it is to be AVERAGE. Think about it, if you were one of one hundred people, what would be considered AVERAGE? To me it would be someone who falls within 5 people of the number 50. In other words, if you fell between 45 and 55, you would be average. 56 and above would be above average, 44 and below would be below average. Therefore being average allows you to fall within a very small number of people out of 100.
If you were an employer, would you hire someone who was AVERAGE or BELOW AVERAGE? Probably not; why would you? If you are able to choose from all of the 100 people, you would probably target the top 45 of the 100 people not the lower 55. I would definitely NOT want someone who believes it is okay to be average; therein lies the problem; BEING AVERAGE? If someone actually believes it is okay to be average, you will forever have an “average” employee working for you. Why would you ever want that for your company?
In 2016 we see one monumental invention/improvement day after day. It is almost impossible to think of what might be coming in the future. Do you think these inventions or improvements were created by average people? A few maybe, but the rest most definitely not. They were more likely invented or created by someone who personally does not consider themselves as “average” nor do their employers nor are these people ever satisfied with the status quo. When an employer hires someone who is exceptional (above average), they know they have the proverbial diamond in the rough. Their job is to enable that diamond to truly shine its brilliance, they let the person grow not only to a perceived personal ceiling but more importantly to exceed that ceiling and reach heights even they did not know they could reach.
I can hear the disagreements as some people read this. “But not everyone has the same educational opportunities and therefore would find it difficult if not impossible to become “above average.” My response? Tell that to Abraham Lincoln, tell that to Daniel Webster and if you check your history, you will find a list of people who rose from their environments of extreme poverty and void of any educational opportunities to heights of prominence in spite of their environment or lack of education. How did they do it when the children of today rest on THEIR environment as an excuse for not being able to learn, advance and become successful?
Very few people are born with the physical attributes to play professional sports yet a great many work and practice until they acquire them. They have a dream. They are focused on the goal. They enjoy sports. But not everyone even with all those things working for them, make it to the professional sports ranks. Sports is a metaphor for setting a goal and then determining what one must do in order to achieve and even surpass their goal(s). What must I do today if my goal is to become an astronaut tomorrow? What must I do today if my goal is to become a successful politician, writer, actor, scientist, etc., etc. tomorrow?
Can you explain how a 7 year old little league baseball player can understand what it would take to make it to the next level of competition when everyone, not only on his or her team, but everyone throughout the league receives a “participation trophy.” Individuals are not encouraged to do their best to make a team as a starter because everyone plays; not just the best of the best but everyone. If I were one of the 7 year old boys who had to play in such an environment I could not help but ask why another boy is playing and not me, I catch better, I run faster, I hit better yet he is playing and I am not. Transfer that logic to any school classroom where everyone seems to pass to the next grade no matter what their scores. Where is the desire to become anything other than “just average?”
To me, teaching students to “color within the lines” is doing nothing but creating average students and therefore average or even below average adults. Where is the incentive to reach the top of the class if you cannot think or you are not encouraged to think beyond the borders? There is none unless a student plays the game for outwardly appearances and then uses his or her time, usually with the help of caring parents, to do more than the minimum required by the schools.
What happens to the teachers in today’s schools. This is just my personal opinion but I can relate to what happened to me while working in a steel mill in 1964 where I was required to join the Steelworkers Union. I was forbidden by the union foreman to do anything more than the minimum required otherwise I would make the other union workers look bad. So instead of encouraging me to do more and accept more responsibility, I had a union imposed ceiling that I was not to exceed.
If a teacher wants to become more successful, they typically do it by going the extra mile within their classrooms, attend non-required educational courses, read books, or work on their time to earn their Masters or Doctors Degrees. That hopefully positions them to better help their students they teach. But what about the teacher who wants to help his or her students excel and is willing to go the “extra mile, when most other teachers do not?” How do the other teachers perceive him or her when they can clearly see the teacher has gone that extra mile to help his or her students when they chose to do only the minimum required? Teachers typically are paid not based on any production results. No, they are paid based on being hired and then their years on the job and an occasional pay raise granted by the local or state officials. There is very little incentive for teachers to excel unless they do it on their volition.
Interesting question. If you have school age children, would you want them taught by teachers who only have to do the minimum or by the average or below average teacher? Or would you want your children to be taught by teachers who will recognize those students who both want and need more than just the minimum and are not restricted by other teachers opinions, school administration policies, and/or union imposed limitations?
If you have children involved in sports, would you want them to receive a participation trophy for just showing up or would you want them to be coached and encouraged to reach higher personal achievements with the idea they may progress to even more competitive teams and maybe even a college scholarship?
If you have children who are now going out into the workforce, would you want them taking jobs that pay only minimum wages or would you want them to work at a location where they can learn and advance through the system even if that means starting out at a minimum wage?
I am going to recommend that everyone read Orsin Swett Marden’s book, Pushing to the Front. If you think I described “today’s” problems, you are both right and wrong. They existed when Marden wrote this book in the late 1890s AND THEY STILL exist today. That is not a misprint, 1890! As I read his book and several of his other books, it became obvious that the problems we experience today we would have also experienced back in the 1890’s and early 1900s. How do I know this? Marden wrote about them in 1890. They are still with us today. What does that mean? It means that if we continue on a path of ignoring the past, we can’t help but repeat it as we have been doing ever since the 1890s. How sad is that? Read the book It is long but definitely proves the point. It is also free and in this case FREE is PRICELESS. You can download and read a free version on Kindle (which is also free) at https://www.amazon.com/Pushing-Front-Orison-Swett-Marden-ebook/dp/B004TRFE9W/ref=sr_1_2_twi_kin_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480622449&sr=8-2&keywords=Pushing+to+the+front+kindle
The lesson learned? It is NOT okay just to be average!
How does one excel beyond average?