Monday, April 12, 2021

Being average is not failure, as long as you are on the right side of average.

Back in March, I wrote an article suggesting that in the future, when jobs are scarce, being average would not be good enough. It was a great article (the author humbly informs his readers) but not so great that it could not have been challenged. Since nobody else is stepping up to the plate I thought that in the interest of providing a balanced viewpoint I would give my own rebuttal. Fortunately, I had some help and while looking through unpublished drafts of my article ideas I came across one titled "Being average is not failure." I stole the idea from Mark Manson's blog article back in 2015. He had written "In Defense of Being Average". For those of you who do not know Mark, he is also the author of  the bestseller, "The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck".

In my previous article, I argued that it would become necessary for our kids to be the "best" at what they do in order to stay competitive. The opportunities for regular kids with regular skills and capabilities would end up competing with artificial intelligence and robots for some jobs and the millions of other regular people for the other ones. The sweet, high paying jobs would go to the elite at the far right of the bell curve.

Bell curves are a nice segue into the next part of my article where I present the counterargument or at least a partial counter. Mark uses a bell curve in his article to explain how almost everyone is average. In the curve shown here, anywhere from 68% to 95% could be considered average, more or less. He points out how unrealistic it is to expect to reach the top 0.1% of achievement or ability. I  agree with this. He then goes on to say that it is OK to be average as long as you continue to strive to be better than average. I agree with this too!

That is the end of my agreeing with the counterargument. Now I am going to start shifting back towards my original premise. The bell curve Mark uses in his blog tends to lump everyone into only 3 categories; really bad, really good, and average. I like this curve better (found on an article about assessments and standards in school) and am borrowing it here (with attribution). Mark's approach only allows for a comparison with the 0.1% at either end and then everyone else in the middle being equally average. If we consider the future of work and that perhaps 50% (a random number) of jobs will disappear then being on the right side of average on the bell curve (the blue 34%) means you are still competitive. Our kids do not need to be in the top 0.1% of their vocation, just the top 50%. 

While many of our kids will not be the next Zuckerberg or Jobs, by putting in the time and energy they can stay "ahead of the curve".

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