Accepting Average Enables Exceptional
People remain average because they don’t understand exceptional.
A friend of mine recently said, “Maybe average is ok. That’s what most people and organizations are so what’s wrong with it?” We were exploring vision, passion, and excellence. I don’t think he was advocating for average; you don’t have to. He was, however, pushing me and our conversation.
Most are average in most areas.
Out of reach:
Believing exceptional is about everything and not one thing places exceptional out of reach. The impossibility of being exceptional at everything paralyzes legitimate passion for one thing.
Accept your unique averageness. Embrace the things that you don’t and won’t excel at. The nice thing about accepting average is it doesn’t take passion, vision, energy, dedication, or pursuit. It takes average effort to be average.
Save your strength:
Stop wasting your energy trying to lift your average to extraordinary. Accepting your average frees you to pursue your exceptional; your one thing. The likelihood you are exceptional at several things is so slim it’s not worth considering. You have average intelligence, average appearance, and in many areas, average skills.
Once you accept your average, five questions will help you find, clarify, and amplify your one thing.
- Why do you get out of bed every day?
- How will you shape your future?
- What guidelines do you live by?
- When you fall down, how do you pick yourself back up?
- How do you hold yourself accountable?
The distance between average and exceptional discourages its pursuit. Tom Peters responds, “A passion for excellence means thinking big and starting small.”
Let others handle average; focus on exceptional.
What holds people back from finding, embracing, and living in their exceptional?
What helps you pursue excellence?
Accepting where we are average frees us from the trap of perfection and allows us to be exceptional in what is truly important. Very thought provoking article!
Dan very effectively put. I agree that blind pursuit of exceptional is what prevents us from being exceptional.
In organisations what prevents people from being excellent is there is too much stress on negatives and too less on positives.
Building on your strength is obvious, but obviously it doesn’t get done.
That is the fallacy of today’s management and managers.
In one yearly evaluation, I was commented on being exceptional at A for 5 mins and then for other 55 min it was work on these B and C for next year review where I was average.
One cannot be exceptional at everything, and by concentrating on one or few things one can reach true heights. Being average at others is just fine
Dont let the world turn you into a rounded pebble. Explore your uniqueness and be exceptional.
I play around with a couple of things in this arena. One is the concept of Flow. Lots has been written about it but when we play pool, it is just that occasional duration of play when someone does all things right and the shots and position play all go the way of the player without a lot of effort. Occasionally, one will get into that zone and play for an hour without any difficulties whatsoever.
Flow exists in that combination of skill level and challenge level mesh. Average performers can get into that zone almost as well as superior performers.
The other notion comes about through choice. People make choices all the time. But sometimes, in particular situations, they are choosing from a set of alternatives that gives them a better than average performance level. Let’s say someone has a lot of experience in finance – but they are an average performer in their company.
They are now working with a small private school. Those same skills give them a lot of better choices than are found by those around them. They performer higher because they have more alternatives to pick from.
In the workplace, I play with roadblocks around the simple framework that a manager’s role is to work to remove them from the individuals as well as the work team. I call the behavior or removal, “Dis-Un-Empowerment,” simply to make it a bit “catchy” but to also make it simple.
If that average performer has some new choices from which to choose, they have the possibility of making improvement. If they choose, they can possibly improve. Not choosing will tend to generate the same performance.
And “average” does not mean “unchanging.” An average performer will show deviation around that performance measure — in other words, “Some days are better than other days.” If only we could do it incrementally better each day…
Thanks for the thought provoking and reassuring idea that you don’t have to do it all and be it all to be exceptional. I recently accepted a new position that is going to be full of challenges. Some of these challenges I know I’ll be able to handle easily, and some of these challenges will be a struggle for me. Unfortunately, I find myself going down a path of self doubt that I’ll try to pull myself out of using the ideas expressed in this forum.
Anything but an average post, Dan. Thanks. Some great insights to ponder here.
I would question the phrase “Accept your unique averageness”. This would have made more sense to me if you had not used the word ‘unique’ – here.
A key element in discovering where one is exceptional is understanding what makes them unique. Our strengths are derived from our God-given uniqueness, and building on our strengths leads to becoming extraordinary.
Personally, I do accept where I’m average. It is what it is. I then focus most of my efforts on my unique combination of strengths, as defined by my values. This is the never-ending journey that is well worthwhile.
Thanks for this post. It is nice to hear how okay it is to let perfection in some areas belong to someone else. It is freeing to be able to say…”I am terrible at that or I wish I was better at that, but it’s okay that I’m not.” Having a sense of humor about my averageness (I love making up words too) allows me space and energy to pursue the things that are exceptionally me. MMF
I think there are two things that hold people from finding, embracing and living in their exceptional: they are circumstances and inertia. And between these two things, circumstances are present with almost everyone. Circumstances make people great if they learn how to fight and overcome them. Inertia, on the other hand, is greater hindrance that is in our control. Irrespective of circumstances, inertia plays major role in deciding our passion for purpose. Greater the inertia, greater the hindrance and vice versa, so, controlling of individual inertia is more important than trying to control circumstances.
I think, dogged belief and committed effort help to pursue excellence. Belief creates confidence and commitment maximizes effort. When making effort, we should try to control our expectation. It is natural to expect more than effort, but the person who has ability to understand that expectation is not in our hand has more chances to overcome failure and odd circumstances.
This is really an interesting concept and something to reflect on to gain better personal understanding. One thing that comes to mind however is that In order to realize where one is average and exceptional takes someone who is acutely self-aware and objectively self critical. The problem is that many who are simply average consider themselves exceptional, and when those are the people who are the managers or leaders this can cause a real disconnect with subordinate workers. When average skilled managers presume they are exceptional at managing projects and people practices, those who truly are more exceptional in some areas may not get recognized for their talents and abilities and may be overlooked for promotions. Another reason to eliminate any hierarchy in the workplace.
Baloney on the comment you can’t be exceeptional at everything!
If you reach your FULL potential you are exceptional.
I may not run as fast as you, but if I run as fast as I can i’m exceptional.
Second, I love the fact that people want to be avg. – Gives me more opportunity to beat them 100% of the time.
In the education business there is something called a magnet school, for those students who wish to focus on exceptional skills or passions (e.g. olympic atheletics). The danger in a public education system is the mindless need to provide equity. So rather than focusing talent and resources at the magent school there is a hopeless attempt to provide equity to many or all schools by diluting the resources and spreading them very thinly. These decisions are made by those who have never truly been exceptional at anything in their life. There is no deep understanding of what exceptional means.
One of the major failings of the educational system is that it fails to allow for individuals and treats everyone uniformly – so the underachievers are left out and the over achievers are downgraded. The move to 21st century practices will hopefully generate practices in educators and school systems that will allow individuals to become the best they can be in the area where their talents are strongest.