Archive for the ‘Being Average’ Category

Ghosts of the Past

May 13, 2008

My father grew up in the rural Southwest US with what were called ‘regular folk’.  When he was a baby they lived in the mountains and got to town twice a year.  As he got older he lived in a small town where everyone knew each other.  He was the first person in his family to ever go to college, and most of the others were ranchers or blue collar workers.

He was also born in the 1930’s, and combining the two he grew up in an environment where medical care was not a regular thing.  I remember hearing one of my great-uncles saying, “Hospitals are where you go to die.”  I also remember a cousin who must have been middle aged with barely a tooth in her head.

As such my dad wasn’t one for visiting the doctor unless it was an extreme situation.  He has been widowed twice, so he’ll tell you that he doesn’t like doctors because of all the bad associations in his mind.  I’m sure that’s a factor but I think it’s more of an issue of habit and pride.  It puts him in a situation where he is not in control or the smartest one in the room, and he doesn’t like that.

As I was growing up I inherited his attitude.  The doctor was where you went when you couldn’t stand it any more.  And, being who I am, an average guy, I was much older than I should have been before I started questioning the wisdom of the authorities around me.

One of the results is that I’ve had five knee surgeries after a high school football injury.  I tore my ACL and told everyone that I was fine.  No one made me care for it, so it wasn’t.  I wonder what the condition of my knee would be now if someone had stepped in.

The other result was that I never learned good dental care growing up.  I do a good job now, but to a certain extent it is too late.  I just learned today that I am going to have to have two teeth extracted.

I pretty pissed about it.  I get really resentful of my father for this.  Is one of the things that makes me an average person the history that he imposed on me as a child; a history that I had no control over.  He was always very focused on himself and spent little or no time doing any self-examination.  I wonder if he has ever considered what legacy he was giving to others.

It’s not the specific fact that I am losing a couple of teeth.  That can happen to someone of excellence.  It’s the reason why.  It’s simply because I didn’t care for myself the way I should have and that no one cared enough to make me when I was young.

At the same time, I’m in my 40’s now.  How long can I blame him.  It’s not his fault that it took me until I was in my 20’s until I started questioning things that he told me or implied were truth.  Being an average person, it took me too long to think for my self.  That’s not his fault.

He could have mentored me, which he didn’t.  I could have took charge of my own life earlier than I did, but I didn’t.  I’ll have to live with both.

I’m just an average guy

May 8, 2008

 

As a part of my job I frequently present information about individual children to others.  One of the pieces of information is to describe what kind of student the child is.  Most of the form says the student is average.  As people are scanning the information about the kids I will regularly get the question, “Why are most of the kids listed as average?”

Logic tells us that most of us are average.  If you chart a bell curve of almost anything to do with your life the vast majority of the time we’ll fall in that big hump that groups us with almost everyone else.

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as average.  Unless something requires special education or ability most of us highly overrate ourselves.  If you ask me what kind of basketball player I am or what I know about neurosurgery I’m going to rate myself as below average.  Ask me what kind of driver I am though and I’ll tell you I am well above average.  So, will the vast majority of people.  Yet, in all these categories I am probably right in the middle of the bell.

Yet, when I go to a bookstore and look at business how-to or self-improvement books the authors are encouraging me to be special.  I can become a great leader, great in relationships, a great salesman, and a great investor.  And I read all those books because I want to be all those things.  I want to understand the philosophy of human thinking, business trends, and my place in the world.  I want to live a special life.  I want to be special.

But if I am going to be honest with myself, and lately I’ve been in a place where I was forced to look deeply and candidly at who I am, I must realize I’m not a great thinker, I’m not a great leader, I’m not especially charismatic.  I’m probably not going to build anything spectacular.  I’m probably not going to leave a huge legacy of thought or relationships, or create an organization that changes things for people.

I’m not really bad at any of these things.  In fact I think I’m pretty smart.  But, I realize I am only smart enough to realize how brilliant some others are.  I am somewhat creative, and can tell when something is particularly good or bad.  But I can’t necessarily tell you why or what it is missing.  I have good ideas, and sometimes great ideas.  But, that doesn’t mean I can implement them greatly.

Yes, I know I am doing a lot of comparison.  I am not as smart and creative as Bill Gates.  Does that mean I’m not smart and creative at all?  No.  But, what it does mean, since I don’t even come close is that I am probably average.

As an average person can I still lead a special life?  Does being average mean that I am condemned to mediocrity?  I think the answer is yes and the answer is no.  That’s what I’m going to be exploring here.  I hope others who are also average are interested in joining me.