Average?


Interesting Opinion column in the New York Times today. In his column, Average Is Over, Thomas L. Friedman states:

In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.

Well, for some  it’s over. But for some of us, average never got started. Average never even existed.

When I was a child, my parents drilled it into my head: You won’t get anywhere in life doing just the minimum. If you want to succeed in life, you have to give at least 110%.

(You see, to my parents, 100% WAS the minimum.)

They never explained why, and I never asked. It was just an accepted fact in my house.

Of course, it didn’t take me long to find out why this was a requirement.

I learned two lessons in life very early: You can’t be black and average and you can’t be female and average and expect to get anywhere in life.

And if you were both, well, you’d best get used to having to be awesome.

Yes, I had to be awesome to be seen as average. I had to be spectacular to be good and I had to be damn near perfect to be awesome.

Every. Damn. Day.

The pressure isn’t as great now as it was, because now I’m somewhat established, but that’s not a work ethic that just evaporates. It’s as much a part of me as breathing and writing. I don’t think I could half-ass something if I wanted to. Average isn’t in me, because I could never allow it.

So, it rankles me a bit that some people who have gone through life being average are crying foul that just won’t cut it anymore.

To them, a question: What was it like?

What was it like to just do the bare minimum in college and still get a decent job?

What was it like to just do just slightly above the minimum required, and still get promoted?

What was it like to write mediocre content, but still land private clients or plum assignments?

I’d really like to know, because I’ve never had a chance to experience it. Cuz, you see..

While you were busy skipping class, getting Cs on tests and partying, I was studying. Cuz I needed at least a B to match your C if I was going to get recommendations from teachers and advisors.

While you were working an extra 15 minutes a week, and going home to your family, I was working 10 extra hours a week, and going home too tired to deal with mine. And we got promoted on the same day.

While you were writing crap, our supervisor was giving me your work to correct, but you still got the credit. And the accolades. And the bonus.

So, now that you have to do what I did, you want to whine about it? Seriously?

Boo frickin’ hoo.

It will take some adjustment, but I’m sure you’ll find a way to adapt. Just like, now that you can’t be average anymore, I’ll have to adjust my game as well.

The difference is, I’m used to it. Catch me if you can.

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4 thoughts on “Average?

  1. Sarah says:

    I have always struggled with the idea of “Average”. I have average appearances come from a pretty average family and lifestyle and as far as anyone outside can tell I am average. I never wanted to be average. I work hard in a desperate attempt to establish myself as an individual.

    Thank you for your time and thought that went into these words. I can read your frustrations.

  2. I was never told being black or female meant I needed to work harder. Instead I was raised to do my best and it would go well with me. Even when I have not always done my all there has seemed to be something about me. Maybe it is just an internal peace & joy. lol

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