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Average is a Dirty Word

by Twitchy on April 26, 2013

We live in a culture of Success and Achievement. Career pinnacles, celebrity, fifteen-minutes-of-fame, reality show contestants, people looking for their big break. Little kids want to be famous! Everyone seems to be following their dream, or pushing someone else to achieve theirs.

Ribbons, certificates, letters, prizes, titles, dollars, peer approval, a name; we want them. It may be study, rehearsal, hard work or charm that get us there. Or plain old good looks and nepotism. Some find themselves there by accident. Much of it is admirable, some of it not so much. What does it mean?

It means average is a dirty word. Average used to actually mean average, somewhere in the middle. These days it’s an insult. Mediocrity is our mortal enemy, striking more fear in our hearts than sharks, spiders and public speaking put together. It means we might be failures. Heaven forbid.

I’m not suggesting we stop aiming for our best, but perhaps we could be better at dealing with the times we’re not winning. After all, there may be disappointments, rejections and patience required ahead.

Success is not Final Failure is not Fatal

Just as there’s a big difference between determination and entitlement, so there is between philosophy and complacency. Between hope and crushing pressure, plans and reality. There’s also the luck of the draw for each and every one of us. Life is a long haul prospect. If we place our self worth on pinpointed moments, or wholly in the hands of others, we might find ourselves in a really inadequate place.

I‘d love to see us redefine what ‘success’ is. There are those of us who are struggling like hell under the surface, just to appear ‘normal’. There are those of us who start out well behind the starting line in life. Behind the scenes, they work harder than most of us will ever know, just to keep up and not fall terribly behind. ‘Average’ for them, is success. Average for most of us, is merely the days between the wins. Can we please not be so hard on ourselves? Could we commit to more reasonable terms?

Last month I put fear aside and spoke at a blogging conference. I talked about how we all have to start somewhere, and that’s usually small. Some are happy to stay there and that’s fine. As bloggers we are all about stats, readership, reach, networking. But we can’t all have it right away. We can’t all be at the top together, so how about we step back and reframe things, even if it’s just today? No one really talks about this because focus seems to always be on getting bigger. My sentiments were well received, sometimes with praise, other times with sheer relief! Eden Riley spoke earlier and referenced the Slow Blogging movement. It’s a thing! You don’t HAVE to blog every day, blog when you have something to say. Again, more tweets and audible sighs of relief and validation: I’m not a failure, I’m a Slow Blogger! Can I get a Hallelujah?!

Today I helped out a friend. I’m thrilled she let me, because I was able to do something that might make her happy. (The being seen part has this suburban recluse holding onto her knickers a little bit today.)

Life has its twists and turns*, and for me (not a business person or an athlete) it’s not too much about big moments or numbers. In fact the less it is, the better. It’s about being okay with right now.

If additional needs parenting has taught me anything, it is this. I understand that everyone travels their own road. There’s always an opportunity to see things in a different light, and success? …is utterly subjective.

* This is not the post I planned to write. I did not expect to spend hours of today in the emergency department with my poor six year old who’d split her head open. (She’s fine. She got skin glue and the doctor was handsome, so recovery will be quicker.)

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee-Anne June 6, 2014 at 7:57 pm

A very perceptive post, I concur! ‘Success’ per se is so highly subjective and depends on an individual’s criteria – not society’s… Glad to meet you, Twitchy. :)

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looking back May 4, 2013 at 8:21 am

I’m happy to celebrate mediocrity, as long as it is someone else’s idea if it.
Success is entirely subjective and should be defined as meeting or exceeding your own goals.
I’ve been a soldier, bouncer, barman, bodyguard, electrician, business owner, white collar, blue collar, sometime writer, sometime poet, sometime musician, sometime software creator and have thrown in two marriages and a number of kids along the way.
Am I a success? I’ve achieved less than many and done more than most and as a (now) stay at home dad, can say doing this is where I’m happiest.
At 42, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I no longer care.
My “Success” can be seen in my kids. Are they happy? Are they healthy? Am I raising them with open hearts and minds? If yes, then I’m winning..

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EssentiallyJess April 28, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Success is so objective isn’t it? I think so much of it is an attitude.
Was talking to one of the girls at work the other day, and she said that people assume she is stupid because after years of the same job role, she hasn’t moved into management yet. But the truth is, she doesn’t want to. Doesn’t make her average, but smart because at least she knows what she wants right?

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Collett (familysmart) April 26, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Yes – Let’s take back ‘average’. We need to stop telling kids they can be anything they want to be. That’s not entirely true. Most will be average. But why is that somehow ‘bad’?
Love this post!

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mumabulous April 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Ironically I started to experience greater “success” in the conventional sense when I gave up worrying about what was wrong with me and my life and started focusing on the moment. Zen. ;-)

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Twitchy April 26, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Bam! There you go :) Release from attachment. Well done.

Oculus Mundi April 26, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I have never understood the need some feel to post every day. Or to follow any rules at all about blogging. Post what you want, when you want. Better to post something worth reading once a fortnight than just post to fill an imaginary gap. Frankly, I don’t think William Faulkner would have had something worthwhile to say every single day so I certainly don’t think I do either.

It is hard to get inside yourself and dig out that fear of failure that society/peers/family/school sometimes try to implant. But not impossible. I have done it. I care little for the words of others, unless for some reason I respect them. And I certainly don’t respect a car, or a house, or a sense of entitlement.

My sister in law, Wendy, died very suddenly a couple of months back, aged 42. She was a success. She did a job she enjoyed, well, she had two children she adored and a husband she loved. She was not rich, famous, did not beat herself up to fit the rules of others. They lived a quiet, happy life, until it was taken from them.

Sorry, don’t mean to be maudlin, but my point is just this -Life is precious. So, just live.

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Kylez @ A Study in Contradictions April 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Success is totally over-rated! Especially when it comes to blogging. I think people need to get over this idea that they need to be successful to be happy, or that anything average is bad. It’s so not. I love being average, it means I can spend my time doing the things I love and not worrying about whether I’m living up to the success that other people have in mind for me. Its very liberating!

We can’t all be winners all the time and there is nothing wrong with that. Kids especially need to learn this otherwise we are setting them up for a very hard road of self-esteem issues I feel.

Love this post Twitchy!

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Tegan April 26, 2013 at 9:53 am

I read a post the other day about gifted children, and the need for everyone to believe that their children are gifted in some way. It’s true that we all want the best for our children but I think that we need to support them in what they do, and that it may not always be THE best, but it’s their best.

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Josefa @always Josefa April 26, 2013 at 9:20 am

Perfect. Every word. Average needs to be accepted as part of the path – a good part of the path. there are so many things in this post I could pull out and say “love this part.” But that might turn into a blog post in itself. Great job today over at Eden’s space xx

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