Average isn’t a word most people prefer to associate with. No mystery as to why; it means a lack of vitality, brilliance and relevance. If you look at surveys and interviews, a vast majority typically judge themselves better than average.
Any third grader can explain to you this basic mathematical truth: add up the data set, divide by the “bits” of data, and you get the average. Are we fooling ourselves to believe that “better than average” is a dominant quality? Yes.
A fabulous info-graphic via DailyBurn (from Frugal Dad) displays this conundrum in real terms: self-assessments of health and fitness. According to their research, the average man can complete one pull-up, 27 push-ups in a minute, and one mile in 8 min 34 sec.
Their punchline is striking: 69% of men consider themselves physically fit; 13% actually are.
Let’s apply this paradox to the world of the creative professional.
- Are your ideas better than average?
- Is your output more prolific than the average in your industry?
- Does this belief cause you to be back on your heels rather than leaning forward, growing, and challenging yourself?
That last question bears the most attention. You see, I feel the gravest danger born of this mindset is complacency. If the majority of us genuinely feel that we’re better than average, then we may no longer feel the urgency to grow. It’s easy to grow complacent if our only motivation for getting better at our craft is our self-perceived position relative to everyone else.
The causes of this complex are many. One that I think deserves mention is what Todd recently wrote about in Everyone Gets a Trophy. In his words, “I believe that, contrary to its intent, this self-esteem push can be significantly detrimental to creativity.” The need to feel special negates the drive to risk, develop our skills, and grow. As responsible creative professionals, we owe it to ourselves, our team, our clients and the industry we serve to dedicate ourselves to continual growth.
Thoughts? Please share your opinions in the comments.
Image: Peter Alfred Hess