During a hackathon competition, I met a mathematician/programmer who was a recent grad. He was talented and a hard worker, though a bit socially awkward. While we were sharing details about ourselves, he said to the group, “By the time I am 25, I will be the founder of a company, or will have achieved something exceptionally great. Otherwise, I will feel that I have failed my mentors.” My mind immediately came up with this equation: Disappointment = Reality – Expectations.
Being Average Doesn’t Mean You’re a Failure
These days, we are told to “be the leader”, “be extraordinary”, and “stand out from the crowd”. But you just can’t have everybody be leaders. And if everyone stood out from the crowd, we’d all be isolated and there eventually would not be a crowd. If we’re all extraordinary, then no one is extraordinary.
Not everyone can be a leader or CEO, and not everyone should. But being average doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Statistically speaking, the vast majority of us will be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum in just about everything we do. And that’s ok. We can still be impactful and what we do can still have meaning. In fact, compared to our ancestors who didn’t have as many opportunities as we do, it’s better than ok!
And let’s not forget there are major downsides to being extraordinary. First off, it never lasts. If you rise to the height of ultimate fame and success, unless you die there, you will need to repeatedly adjust to the inevitable downward descent. Furthermore, being extraordinary in one area of your life probably means other areas are lacking.
Lastly, it can get really lonely standing out from the crowd. And you might even feel unprotected and insecure. In nature, both the leader and the laggard are usually the first to get attacked or die because they’ve wandered from the safety of the group.
Keeping your ambitions in check allows you to divert more of your time and energy to securing what you already have. And there is peace of mind in being secure.
Being average and being in the crowd are both perfectly fine; I would even say that they both, at many times in life, can be very desirable.